Happy Valentine’s Day!
Hope this morning finds you surrounded by love in some form: friends, family, netflix, pets (don’t bring them to me, I’m allergic) or, of course, your significant other.
I’m super excited about today’s post because it’s beautifully written by a very talented gal named Aubrey who’s working on a book about overcoming shame with Zondervan. While you wait for the fall release, check out her blog aubreysampson.com.
When I first read “I Wish”, I was both touched and convicted. Aubrey has an incredible way of taking an every day experience and revealing the heart of what’s going on inside. I thought Valentine’s Day was a perfect opporutnity to wrestle with the idea of contentment since the holiday often sets many of us up to fail. “I Wish” is a great reminder that we have everything we need to be joyful.
by Aubrey Sampson
Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods and Disney’s latest production of the same title are bookended by two powerful words: I wish. The point is that wishing is cyclical. We wish. We receive. We wish again.
I’ve wished for a new kitchen for quite some time now, but the reality is that on a church planter’s salary new countertops and appliances are the stuff of fairy tales. To my surprise, however, for a Christmas gift, my husband went all heroic-DIY on me. He restored our kitchen cabinets, repainted the entire room, and even used some hardware store credit he’d been saving up to replace our 1980’s eyesore of an island light. It was an affordable way to make my dreams come true. The new kitchen looks gorgeous. I am in love. I am grateful. And yet…I continue to wish.
A few days following the unveiling of the kitchen, I began to think of all the little things I wanted for the new space. A circular rug would be nice. Some new coffee mugs would be cute to display. Nothing too grand or out of reach, really, but before I knew it I was hunting the internet incessantly for sales; ignoring my family to scour decorating apps for farmhouse-chic chalkboards, neo-distressed island stools, and kitschy kitchen dishes. At night while my household slept, I would tiptoe down the stairs to search, uninterrupted, through EVERY DESIGN BLOG THAT HAS EVER EXISTED.
And while there is nothing inherently wrong with online shopping, I began fixating on what I didn’t have, couldn’t afford, and desperately longed for. I wasted long hours placing household items into online shopping carts only to delete them in a moment of anti-materialist resolve, only to later add them again.
My wishing had mutated into obsessing, and I transformed from a sweet Sondheim fairy tale character into a nighttime Gatsby; surrounded by my new beautiful kitchen while staring out at the Other Kitchens just out of reach. And all of this was literally in the span of a week.
In scientific terms: Girl. Gone. Cray. Cray.
Incidentally, as swiftly as the wishing came, the shame followed. I hated myself for this covetousness, this greed. All around me neighbors are losing homes and jobs, and yet I’m daring to wish.
In his classic book, The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer writes, “There is within the human heart a tough, fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets things with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns my and mine look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant. They express the real nature of the old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do.”
I think of my grandmother. Raised by share croppers in Oklahoma, a widow with four children, and still reeling from the residual impact of the Great Depression, Mamaw would deny every gift we tried to give her. “But you need a dishwasher,” we’d say.
“No I don’t. I have always washed my dishes by hand and will do so until the day the good Lord takes me home.” She wasted nothing and shared everything. She was a woman content to decorate her house with newspaper clippings, photos of flower bouquets or mountain scenery. She most certainly was not a woman possessed by Pinterest or owned by Overstock.com. Sensible Mamaw would never have wasted money, let alone a commodity as valuable as sleep, to pore over images of mid-century modern soap dispensers.
These are such first world problems, I know that. At the end of the day they are also Garden of Eden problems. I am Gatsby but I am also Eve. I dwell on what I don’t have. I’m discontent. I don’t believe God has provided everything I need. I wish.
And let’s be honest, right now my struggle happens to be with material items, but if it wasn’t, I’d be longing for other things: approval, accolades, affection.
“We either love wrong things or we love them in the wrong ways,” writes Jen Pollock Michel in her beautiful book, Teach Us to Want. “Instead of loving God faithfully, we devote our affection to trifles…We seek our good in something or someone other than our eternal husband, who is our God.”
In an attempt to stop the madness, to honor my DIY husband, and more significantly, my Eternal One, I finally began asking myself some difficult questions about wishing: What would it look like for me to cultivate gratefulness? Can I give generously to others rather than hoarding in my online shopping cart? Can I enjoy beauty without becoming greedy? Can I learn to wish for the right things?
And the most essential question of all: Can I learn to be content with nothing, knowing I possess everything in Christ?
So I’m trying. I’m turning off the phone, keeping a thankfulness journal, practicing generosity, trying to find true rest. I’m not buying the rug or the soap dispenser.
Even so, something in me knows this: my true contentment will never be found by forcing my possessions back into their proper place. It will be through remembering that Christ possesses me.
Even in my “cray cray,” even in my shame, even in my wishing, I am his.
We are his. And he will be faithful to transform our desires and change the object of our longings. And at the same time, I believe that our wishing won’t end. In fact I don’t think the point of our Christian lives is to stop wishing. I actually believe God will help us to keep on wishing, because at the end of the day, all of our longings are designed to point to and be met in him. As Sondheim put it, “To be happy and forever you must see your wish come true.”
In other words, we will wish until we find the ultimate object of our wishes—Jesus.