In the middle of major life change and challenge, I am finding it so easy to fall into the fantasy that everyone else’s life is going just swimmingly well.
While I can’t find an extension cord to plug in my prehistoric hairdryer and my wifi extenders refuse to work, I imagine other people sitting down to cosy family dinners (which everyone likes eating) and telling funny tales from school and work. They all kiss each other goodnight and drift into blissfully dreamless sleep.
I”see” couples on social media who are in these fantasy relationships where everything is going really, really well. Anniversaries, birthdays, milestones. You’d never believe they’ve had an argument in their lives.
Also – obviously – I see that everyone else has got a job.
Or a calling.
Or a life.
Everyone else in my age group is actually a grown up and are where they are supposed to have reached by this stage. Their children are thriving, even their pets are cute.
This mindset is so so easy to fall into every single day.
It’s brilliant, really. It’s just where the enemy gets us, isn’t it? That “I” am the different one. “I” am the one for whom the story didn’t work out.
What has happened is that I have fallen for the mythic “other”. The “other life” I am supposed to have been living.
So as a Christian, what do I make of this myth?
“Well,” I remind myself, “Where are these mythical people for whom life is just going swimmingly? Either inside or outside of the Kingdom of God?” Among believers I know and love, I have one whose entire life just burned to the ground – literally, in a canyon fire. One whose unborn baby will not survive. One whose marriage is finally approaching the coffin stage. One whose drinking is out of control.
And I slap myself back into reality. For there is no life – Christian or non-Christian – that is above trial. No human life just “goes swimmingly.” We have periods of smooth sailing, but they are periods. They don’t typify the voyage.
What if, as Christians in these inevitable trials of life, our purpose/our meaning/our goal is to be found in just letting the world see what it means to travel through shit with Christ as opposed to without Him?
What if, in these trials, the fruit of our life is to show what HOPE looks like in real terms in the midst of trial? To have it revealed by our choices and responses? To show what it means to be struck down but not destroyed? To be hard pressed on every side but not crushed? To despair even of life and yet keep living?
Because we have that choice.
We can either live under what I call ‘the tyranny of the other’: the false belief that everyone else is living some other kind of life. Everyone else is living the kind of life we were meant to be living – carefree, glorious, “successful”- if we hadn’t messed up getting there along the way.
OR we can live in the reality that this life is often excruciatingly hard and difficult and unfair. (Even if you’re Kim Kardashian in a fancy Paris hotel you still get robbed at gunpoint, right?) We can live into the reality of every life in this world (filled with trouble no matter what as well as joy and hope and truth and redemption) in relationship with the only One who can ultimately make sense of and/or redeem every last bit of it.
So I choose not to allow myself to be ruled by the ‘tyranny of the other’. I choose to smack myself awake and live into the reality of my life (and FYI everyone else’s). To show what it looks like to live through these common messes and hurdles and tragedies with Christ as opposed to without Him.
Hope for me means there is purpose even when I can’t see it. There is hope even when I can’t feel it. There is redemption even when it has yet to be revealed. There is forgiveness when I don’t deserve it. There is mercy for my wrongdoing and weaknesses and mistakes. Because I’m in the hand of the only One who actually has any control over any of this – including my own finitude and wilfulness – and has paid the ultimate price to make it all come right. How could I not sign on to a deal like that??
When I struggle with feeling like a big, fat, loser because my marriage failed and I’ve lost my entire adult existence and been shipped to the other side of the world to start over, I have to remind myself that I’m actually standing on level ground with anyone else breathing in the world today. No matter my circumstances. And I have committed my way to the only One who has overcome this world in all its brokenness and unfathomable reasoning, and who will still make a way for me.
So “Fie on you, Comparisons!” Fie on you.
There is a reason that one of the favourite magnets on my fridge is this: ‘The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.’
I’m going to bash on regardless. Just like everyone else.