My husband, calling to consult on a work issue earlier (before the arrival of the lip balm ingredients from Amazon), asked what I was doing. "Making Tinker Toy presents for Lil' Snip," I told him. He asked what I was going to do (as if my activities might possibly become more interesting in the future). And while I shared his hope for change, I could see no further into my future than "Make more Tinker Toy presents for Lil' Snip."
[Lil' Snip is trying to start a trend: we make "presents" out of Tinker Toys and wrap them in doll blankets to give each other. Lil' Snip is pretty much alone in his interest in this new activity.]
The other night my Farmer came home from work a bit early, followed by a large white van, which opened its back doors and disgorged two large bookcases into my kitchen. We ate supper in their shadow. Since my Farmer had an evening commitment at church, I was left alone with the deliciously revel-some task of completely re-arranging five of our current bookshelves in order to trade three of them for these two.
The "toy" shelf became the "school" shelf, and our largest bookshelf (made by my Farmer in a long-ago shop class) became the "toy" shelf. The shelf with the printer on it, the tall corner shelf, and the previous "school" shelf all became null and void, replaced by the splendid new bookshelves and a gloriously comfortable swivel chair recently rescued from Goodwill.
All of that, and the vacuuming besides, took me about three hours. My back complained a little afterward, but my brain told it to zip it since that kind of fun only comes along once a decade or so.
So what with the sunshine and lip balm and the bookshelves and the Tinker Toys, I should have plenty of exciting things to think about, but my mind keeps returning to a talk I heard the other week on covetousness.
That's right, covetousness.
Specifically, women feeling discontented with who they are and what they have, and coveting the stuff and talents and bodies of friends and strangers.
We focused mainly on why it's wrong (it's idolatry) and how to stop ("set your minds on things above" and be grateful for who we are and what we have).
We all agreed that it's a problem (we easily listed columns of things we covet). But here's the thing: it's so easy to say "change your thoughts" and sooooooo hard to actually do. I know, I know, "take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" - but what does that even mean, and HOW do I ever begin to do it consistently enough to make a new pattern in my brain?!
And don't even think about telling me anything involving the words "discipline" or "self-control" or even "just let God do the work in you." Been there, done that. So far it's not working, that I can see.
I don't know the 12 steps or anything, but it seems to me that sometimes, to kick a habit, you need replace it with something new, so here's a thought or two on beating covetousness:
One time when I was a year or two out from having a baby and had actually lost the weight, a friend, while acknowledging that she herself hadn't gotten back in shape yet, complimented me on how good I looked. I was a little stunned that she was able do that, to be honest, but her admiration was a gift without strings, not covetous or accusatory, and it struck me that perhaps this is a way out of the comparison trap.
I had a friend once who used to remind me, mid-rant, that I do not get to be God, and that life isn't all about me. I don't get to be good at all the things I'd like to be good at. I don't get to have all the opportunities I'd like to have. I don't get to be born with the talents or personality or body type that some of my friends have.
She was dead right. God made me, me, and my job is to be grateful for what he gave me, and celebrate what he gave my sisters in Christ, whether I got what they have, or not.
The thing is, we're all hungry for approval and admiration. And yes, it is God's approval that we ultimately seek, but let's face the facts: he also put us here for each other. We are His hands and feet to each other, and sometimes we are His smile, too.
Did you ever finally accomplish something that you were proud of - a meal that looks and tastes good after endless days of frozen this or canned that, or a corner of a room that at long last is a thing of beauty instead of a shameful mess, or a child who did something clever instead of just wreaking havoc like usual - and full of the joy of "finally!" you post a photo on your social network of choice. Ever? Sure you have. And why? Not to boast, not because you really think you're something special, but because you doubt that you are and you'd like a little reassurance from your friends, because you are longing for someone to rejoice with you, to celebrate one of life's scarce little victories, to smile with you and say "good job!"
Now hold that up to another scenario you've surely heard as often as I have: a friend voices her disgust with facebook or pinterest or someone's blog (please, God, not mine) because of "those braggy people out there who always have to show off their gorgeous perfect homes and their photogenic gourmet food and their fashionable little angel-children."
My sisters, that is theft of the grossest kind.
You may blanch at the thought of going into a store and pocketing merchandise without intending to pay for it, but when you even mentally accuse someone of bragging when they display a success, and covet instead of rejoicing with them, you have stolen what is rightly theirs.
Paul exhorts us in Romans 12 to "Rejoice with those who rejoice".
And remember the story Jesus tells about a woman who calls her friends to celebrate with her when she finds a coin she has lost? Those precious moments when we find the coin, when we are momentarily lifted from our not-enough-ness by something good that we've had a hand in for once, don't completely satisfy in and of themselves. Solitary joy is never as sweet as joy shared with friends. We are, together, a body, after all, and when one part suffers, we all suffer; when one part rejoices, we [should] all rejoice.
Maybe instead of focusing on ourselves and our apparent lack, and resenting our sisters for the gifts that God has given them, we could acknowledge their gifts, and build each other up with compliments (or requests for lessons). A few less assumptions of "what a bragger!" and a few more "good job, girlfriend!!", and we might actually begin to make a dent in the insecurity that fuels covetousness in the first place. And if you really can't change your perspective on virtual media, then by all means stay away from it - but do compliment and cheer on your sisters in real life!!
Please, try it?
Next time you see a gorgeous snapshot of someone's living room or gourmet supper on facebook, or lavish party decorations on pinterest, don't hate. Celebrate. We all have a closet / body part / habit that we're embarrassed by, a seemingly essential skill we lack, and a spiritual discipline we can't seem to get the hang of. That's part of being human in a fallen world.
But what if we let our imperfections go, and instead of idolizing other women, and stealing their joy, we cheered each other on, and shared in each others' accomplishments, be they frequent or few and far-between . . .
. . . how could we change the world? Our hearts?!
Now, how about some heavily edited snapshots of that lip balm project ....? [juuuuust kidding!!]