I remember vividly the excitement I felt in my stomach the last couple weeks of school. Summer was quickly approaching, and I could hardly keep my feet still underneath the metal frame desk that cut into my knees with every move. My mind swirled with ideas of how I would spend my time and with whom I would spend my time; the sheer anticipation of it all was invigorating.
Just as quickly as the excitement set in, so would the letdown as I began to realize summer was almost over, and I most assuredly did not accomplish all I set out to do. The anticipation of it all seemed almost greater than the actual experience. The very idea of all the memories that I would make was more lasting than the memories themselves. How could this be? Perhaps the vacations never lived up to their grandeur, or maybe I created this arrival place in my mind that I never quite seemed to obtain. Nonetheless, as the school year began, I resolved that definitely “next summer, I will…”
Do you know what’s funny? I still find myself doing the same thing. Even now, I catch myself in a state of dissatisfaction as if somehow, there is a life out there I am missing out on. A destination I have not yet reached, an arrival place of sorts only the prestigious, the righteous, and the ones who read their Bible every day and pray for hours on end, without fail, manage to conquer. In my mind, there is a grandiose mountain somewhere out there where “The Arrived” all gather together in explicit delight, and the vagrants such as myself will never be good enough to join them.
“Their” marriages are perfect. “Their” children are flawless. “Their” homes stay clean. “They” never lose their temper. “They” get up at 5 am, and by 6:30, “they” have studied, prayed, and hit the gym. “They” are disciplined and never late. “They” always have the right thing to say, and “their” friendships are closer than family and last a lifetime. “Their” knowledge of God far supersedes my meager attempt to know Him more as I fill out my prayer journal once again, asking for forgiveness as I resolve to do better, to be better, and to love better. Defeated and dissatisfied, I come to realize that I will never be one of them. Just like the ending of summer, I am once again left with the realization that I have so far to go. So very far to go.
But who exactly are “they?”
“They” are a figment of our imaginations — a dilution fed to us by the evil one to keep us in a constant state of searching for all the wrong things. “They” are sent to divide families, to destroy marriages, and to lie to our children. “They” are an addiction that promises satisfaction but inevitably leaves you empty and unfulfilled, thus continuing the cycle of your search to be like “them.” We spend so much time trying to be like “them,” but the truth is “THEY” do not exist. “THEY” are not real people. Like the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz who was pulling all the strings and invoking fear into Dorothy and her friends, “they” may surprise you. “They” is actually “US.” We are the authors of our own dissatisfaction.
My friends, why should a picture of a happy family make us sad? Or why do we see a snapshot of two lovebirds sharing a date night and become convinced that our own relationship is pathetic? Could it be that we are living for the arrival point? Could it be that we carefully crafted what the perfect Christian, marriage, relationship, job, etc. should look like based on our perception of the world, and until we arrive at that place, wherever it may be, we are riddled with depression and anxiety? All the while, we are beating our fists at the air because our expectations are not based on reality.
We stare at mere images on a screen, moments that were captured, perfect moments, in fact, that were meant to show but a glimpse of an ideal day. In the futility of our minds, we take those images, and then we assign a personhood to them that is highly unattainable. This is what a perfect marriage looks like, or that is what it means to be beautiful, and as we compare it to ourselves, we are reminded all the more that we have not arrived. In truth, we are not depressed because we do not measure up, but instead, we are depressed because we spend our lifetime trying to measure up, so much so that we miss the beauty of this life that God gave us — the beauty of a life that is not perfect. It is so imperfect, we can spend every day for the rest of our lives watching God shape and form us.
What is so amazing to me about the God we serve and a lesson He has been teaching me for some time is that He has so much more in store for me. To this girl who has so far to go, I relish in the words of Paul in Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Like the little girl who was overwhelmed with excitement at what the summer might hold, I am beyond thankful that, for the rest of my life, I can live experiencing God’s work upon my life while simultaneously anticipating what He is going to do next. The understanding that there is no arrival place on earth frees me to live in the moment aware of the current struggle that may plague me. It frees me to allow God into a place to do some of His most powerful work because I realize my own inability to arrive anywhere apart from Him.
This understanding, mind you, is no arrival place either. I am no more righteous and no more perfect than I was before, but I am growing in Him, and He is doing things within me that I could never do. He is also changing the way I see you because I realize we are all operating within a fallen world together, and in the same way that I have so far to go, so do you. We are living in a world with death and brokenness, heartache and disappointment. In reality, Christians are being persecuted, children are being killed in the womb, family members are dying, and there is no Christian, no marriage, no friend, or parent that has arrived. We are all suffering from the effects of a broken world.
For this reason, we should be thrilled to see a glimpse of happiness and joy on the faces of our brothers and sisters. It should excite us to cheer them on in their victories and mourn with them through their trials. We should celebrate marriages which are thriving and children who are doing big things for the Lord. We should not be so quick to judge the motives of others but even quicker to offer Grace because we know how desperately we need it ourselves.
You and I have not arrived, but in the short amount of time it took me to write this blog, God was doing something inside me, and I pray He was doing something inside you.
Jill Dasher is a blogger and speaker who is passionate about sharing the message of being known through authentic community with God and each other. She resides in Asheville, NC with her husband Zach and four children. In between sunset hikes and camping weekends she works alongside her husband running a media company.
Follow Jill on Instagram @jilldasher