the myth of missing out

On Tuesday I stayed home from work sick with a nasty headache and pounding pain behind my eyes. I was only feeling marginally better by the evening, but as I tried to decide whether to go to bible study that evening, I found myself torn – 15 minutes before it started. I struggle with a fear of ‘missing out’.

In my childhood and teenage years there were orchestra practices, netball training, violin lessons, tennis, swimming squads, hockey training, bible study, school musical rehearsals and youth group. I’m thankful for all these opportunities and for my parents funding them and ferrying me around, but I think somewhere in amidst all this busyness, the fear began to creep in.

Maybe it started in Year One when I was sick the day they gave out parts for the school play – I was given the role of playing a mustard pot in ‘Food, Glorious Food’ from the musical Oliver. Or maybe when I stopped doing ballet at the age of nine, and I wanted to start jazz ballet. I was probably busy enough, but I thought I was too old to start. I had missed out already.

As an adult I still don’t like to miss dinners with friends, church on Sundays, or failing to do things I’ve said I will do, whether for illness or because I can’t be in two places at once. When I have to make decisions like these I’m plagued with thoughts of “I really should…” and “what will so and so think?” Sometimes I just put it off until I really have to or I get others to make the decision for me. The husband is not a fan. “What if I don’t choose the best thing? What if I get sicker? What if…?”

Well I recently joined with thousands of women at the Equip Conference in Darling Harbour. The Bible talks on the theme Heaven is Waiting were a powerful reminder to live in light of eternity – looking forward to Jesus’ return.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives  as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:11-13

Through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection we can look forward with hope to the day of Jesus’ return, when he brings heaven, where God dwells, to us (Acts 3:21).

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:20

This world is not where I belong, but it matters how I live here. In Di Warren’s talk at Equip she gave four suggestions* for how we live now in light of our true citizenship. The first:

We enjoy good experiences, but we don’t chase them

This is the counter to my struggle. To entertain the idea that I am ‘missing out’ in any sense, amounts to a lack of trust in God.  This world offers many good things, but ultimately it is fallen and is just a shadow of what is to come. No amount of me controlling the events of my life in the pursuit of happiness will truly satisfy. In fact, usually when I pursue the ‘perfect’ day, I end up sad or fighting with my husband because things didn’t go according to my plan.

This world isn’t intended to satisfy and I’m not supposed to be in control – Jesus is Lord of my life. The worst that can happen in any situation is that I die or am injured in some way. Death and injury do not justify a life lived in fear. Because heaven is waiting. God doesn’t make mistakes and always works for the good of those who love him. Not for our happiness, but our good.

These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.
― C.S. LewisWeight of Glory

I’m challenged to make decisions in faith. Yes I must be thankful and enjoy God’s good gifts – delicious food, breathtaking sunsets, soul-nourishing time with friends, inspiring music, my loving husband. But I’m convinced that with God in control, ‘missing out’ is nothing other than a silly myth.

heaven is waiting

***

* Di Warren’s other helpful suggestions for living as citizens of heaven:

  • We invest in our homes, but we don’t over-invest (Matt. 6:19-20)
  • We save souls, not the environment
  • We have hope, even in pain
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it’s not about me … (part 2)

The Christian principle that needs to be at work is Spirit-generated selflessness – not thinking less of yourself or more of yourself but thinking of yourself less. (The Meaning of Marriage p.66)

I’ve been thinking about these words a lot in the last few weeks. How do I think of myself less?

In a recent sermon at church, I was challenged by the passionate words of David in the first verse of Psalm 18. David declares, “I love you LORD.” It is something I have wrestled with for many years – in my mind I think, well of course I love God! But when I examine my heart and I look at the rest of my thoughts, actions and the way I spend my time, I wonder…do I really love God? Heart, soul, mind, all?

Every day I let the small things weasel their way in. Through the Spirit, there needs to be a “find and replace” edit of my thoughts and attitudes. From the concerns and obsessions fueled by fears and wounds from the past (Keller says it’s primarily our wounds which make us self-centred), to the foot of the cross. To Christ. To the fear of the Lord. To loving God.

Five years ago as I went to Uganda on short-term mission, my prayer and heart’s desire was that my love for God would grow. In the space of a few weeks I witnessed God powerfully at work in the lives of my African brothers and sisters, despite the poverty and hardship they faced. They taught us a simple African chorus called “My God is Able,” and we sang this many times over. Oh how my passion for God grew. He is so big and yet he loves, knows, cares forgives me! My prayer was answered.

gorgeous girls at church in Uganda

My mission trip to Africa was wonderfully life-changing but I can’t take a trip to Africa every few years to get a boost of excitement for God. I struggle day to day to feel excited about God, but I want to have an enduring, passionate love for my creator, Lord, redeemer, saviour, friend, Father, comforter, refuge.

But how?

Two small steps for now…

1 – God above all

I’m convinced that the only way to truly fill my heart with God above all, is to spend more quality time with him – whether the desire is there or not. Last year I borrowed Shopping for time, by Carolyn Mahaney et al., from a friend. It’s a little book with big challenges and comes highly recommended! Through it I was challenged to prioritise spending time with God by doing it first each day – no matter how early that meant getting up. (I know, yikes, right?!) It was great when I did it, but unfortunately it didn’t last. I’ve decided to order my own copy, with the hope of getting (back) into the habit of regular quiet times.

2 – Devoting less brain space to consumer decisions…

Another friend’s decision to spend less money on herself, by not buying anything except essential items (so no clothes, shoes, homewares, jewellery etc) has inspired me to do the same thing for two months, til my birthday. So I am trying to think about myself less by pre-making the potentially daily consumer decisions I am blasted with every day as I work in the CBD. It’s been 12 days so far!

As I close, it would be crazy of me to think that in the doing or not doing of things that I would be come instantly less self-centred. But I pray that these little steps and challenges help my heart to change in a lasting way and that my love for God deepens, as I look away from me and look up.