The Thief of Joy

My little brother is one of my best friends. Not a lot of people get to say that, but the Lord has given me this stud of a man, two years younger and many inches taller, as a constant co-conspirator and companion. We take trolling to new heights – and have to explain that word on the regs. To “troll,” according to urban dictionary (which I visited for the first time five seconds ago – hilaaaaaarious), is technically “One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.” But for Tim and me it’s more of “one who does a deliberately ridiculous act to an individual or group with the intention of causing maximum laughter and confusion.” Usually Tim and I are laughing the hardest.

Our family’s spent the past couple days at the lake house where my precious HGTV-addict of a decorative aunt dolled up four cute little homes for our extended family (and many missionaries and church groups!). In a card game my sweet momma continually called “foot mouth” (technically it’s “hand and foot,” but minor detail…), as the night tumbled on, Tim and I slowly lost hold on our already-tenuous grasp on maturity. Hours of quick wit, YouTube quotes, sound effects, and meaningless hand signals to throw off family members reminded me that in the midst of pain and struggle, God shows us glimpses of the joy He has in store.

It’s month six now of post-diagnostic treatment and I’m pretty sure I’ve actually gotten worse. I spent most of yesterday with bags of frozen rice on all the joints in my right leg after a really long run – this quick and extensive weight gain has changed my gait, rendering the orthotics in my shoes increasingly less effective in preventing injury. The notches on my belt are creeping outward, the elastic waistbands of my pajamas are inching inwards, and my energy levels are embarrassingly low – not to mention the poor example I know I set for overweight extended family members. I’ve spent hours trembling in the fetal position on my bed, curtains shut, tears clogging my already-compromised complexion as I desperately avoid facing the inexplicable emotions that plague me at unpredictable times. But I definitely cry into the pillowcase with the “Frozen” princess on it that I got at Target. I’m miserable at times, but still a goofy sister at heart!

When I’m crying and whiny and grumpy – basically all of the seven dwarves wrapped up in one normal-height individual – I let comparison rob me of the joy of the Lord. David spends the book of Psalms hopping from lamentation to exuberance and spanning most of the spectrum of human emotion – sounds a lot like me only this man’s faith blows me out of the water.

Comparison is one of the many thieves of joy – an element of a broken world that Satan uses to weasel his way into our lives and keep us from our Daddy. Call me captain comparison. But really. Obsessed with the way I size up, literally, against other girls. Painfully jealous of the beautiful dating relationships all around me and mildly nauseated by every cute engagement picture (it’s engagement y’all – “she said yes”). Angry at my mom for her charmingly moderate and healthy eating habits, furious with my brother who consumes slices of plain bread just to avoid letting his lightning-speed metabolism rob him of his bulky muscles. “It’s so not fair!” Translation: I’m a whiner and let my worldly comparison habit mar the sufficiency of God’s grace and provision.

Since when has my perspective on justice and what I deserve had any bearing on the truth of who God is and what He has planned for me? Did I forget to pay attention when He tossed over the keys to the limo of luxury or the SUV of the sweet life I have in mind? (I could have dropped them – in softball bench-warming was my greatest gift to the team #butterfingers). But none of the above – I just shut my eyes when he sent me about a billion signs that He loves me. He’s not about to let me suffer the consequences of a life directed by my own comparisons and whims – in His grace He took the keys out of the picture, sending His son to chauffer my life Himself on a dangerous road to an eternity with Him, replete with glimpses of what the bible and C.S. Lewis call the “weight of glory.”

Yup – on the outside I’m thrilled when my brother takes his incredible girlfriend, whom he met the first week of college, on a stargazing date in which he brought a camping stove to make her hot chocolate. On the inside I’m rife with jealousy, struggling to figure out which of my non-existent group of guy friends I’ll bring to our next Orange Jacket date function. I laugh and hug my friends as they cry over the dazzling new ring on their left hand, hating that my own ring from my parents for high school graduation gets tighter and tighter on my swollen fingers.

But I’m not my brother. I’m not my many recently-married/engaged/betrothed/promised/dating/inarelationship friends. I’m the woman God designed me to be. Never thought He designed me to look or feel quite like this, but it’s where I am right now! As a hyper-motivated, super-driven, hard-working leader of a woman, my lifelong singleness has been a constant thorn in my side. I’m consistently self-conscious, wondering what’s wrong with me, why solid Christian men never seem to take interest. People tell me I’m intimidating – and that’s the last thing I want to hear. The Lord has gifted me with intelligence and ambition, qualities I feel like rob me of the gentle and joyful aura of Christian womanhood I deemed necessary to settle down right after college after a Pinterest wedding and start a family.

I’m a goob. My daddy gave me a thirst for adventure and has SO intentionally blessed me with singleness, because this is His perfect plan for my ministry right now! I get to serve other single, and dating, girls, letting them see the brokenness under this go-getter exterior. Maybe I’ll be a navy doc and serve as an OB/GYN with the Marine Corps in Afghanistan? Maybe the Lord will bring my future husband into my life tomorrow! Either way Jesus is still Jesus and my mission is still to serve and glorify Him!

Comparison is a choice. But setting my eyes on jealousy and daydreaming only perpetuate this habit that weaseled its way into my worldview. When I run I get to think clearly – letting my mind bat around the results of comparison and of Christ. Comparison is easy – it’s what I’m used to. And it’s a thief of joy. “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things” – Colossians 3:2 and “take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” – Psalm 37:4. This power combo is the bat to crack a home run when Satan pitches softballs of jealousy. It’s not permission to turn God into cosmic Santa Claus – just the opposite! As we delight in the Lord, setting our minds on things above and choosing to consider Him and His word instead of our idols and insecurities, we render Him the desire of our heart. Jeremiah 29:13 promises that we fill find him when we seek him with all our hearts. The comparison game is lame. It’s like choosing to strike out every time we’re at the plate – home runs are a learned skill, developed from the habit of making the Lord the focus and desire of our hearts.

As for now, I’ve got a ridiculous cousin and goofy brother and loving family to spend New Year’s Eve with! But as a final reminder of God’s love here’s a short but cute reminder of how He feels about me – and you. Just because we’re His kiddos.  Mile seventeen of yesterday’s run was beyond brutal. My glucose and water supply ran out around mile fourteen and I was running on my brother’s rave playlist, will power and prayer. With six minutes to go, I felt like my legs would fall off at any moment. I think they might have – I probably wouldn’t have noticed since they’d gone numb like halfway through. That’s when Gunther joined. I found out his name later, but this big black and white dog trotted up and pranced along next to my heels after I begged the Lord to get me through this run. He stayed with me until I finished! I threw myself down on the yard of our lake houses the second my watch hit my finish time – naturally – and stared up at the spinning sky as Gunther stood next to me, reminding me that the Lord neither leaves me nor forsakes me. I was covered in leaves and over a day later, my legs still feel a little like jell-o. But Jesus is still Jesus – jell-o or no jell-o.  

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