It only takes a brief look at my Facebook newsfeed to feel fairly discontented. Everyone’s having such a great time. Travelling the world, climbing the career ladder, buying big houses, setting up businesses, running marathons for charity (I know, right – crazy people!). Our lives look fairly insignificant and un-glamourous in comparison.
Scott spends his time testing the eyes of elderly people, because that’s a great thing to do – but also to pay the bills and look after our family. I do lots of wiping bodily fluids, feeding tiny people, attending playgroups and being a general children’s entertainer/dogsbody.
We love our lives, we’ve chosen to have children young, to live in the UK, to put my career second to other priorities in our lives. Nobody forced us into these things. We decided that this is what we wanted from life and we’ve gone for it. And by and large we feel very satisfied and contented with our lot.
But then, I scroll through Facebook and my friends are doing really significant things, really impressive things, things that display their worth, power and status. I have one friend who works in parliament, several are doctors, another is a TV presenter, several are successful entrepreneurs, and then there are the ones who are in full time Christian ministry.
Cue the green-eyed monster making her appearance. Envy starts to grip my heart and I start to believe that I want what they’ve got. I want to be free. Free from responsibilities and obligations. Free to travel, to progress professionally, to sleep-in! And then I start to think the inevitable… it’s those children who are the problem. They are the ones who are limiting my freedom.
Dare I say it (on a parenting blog no less!)? I start to imagine what life would be like without the little ones.
What if we had waited a few more years first? What if we were still child-less now? Where would we live? What jobs would we be doing? What once-in-a-lifetime experiences would we be gaining?
But can you see how futile and joy-sapping this is? It’s a one-way track to discouragement and resentment.
So what’s the parenting mistake here? Well it’s this –
Discontentment with your lot.
To think the grass is always greener. To be discontented with your phase of life or position in it and wish you were in another.
You don’t just have to be a stay-at-home mum to experience this. It might be that you work part time, and as you say goodbye to your children at nursery you have a pang of jealousy at those mums who get to stay at home. Or you think about how you’ve had children later in life, and wish you had the energy of the younger parents you see. Or you may look at your home and wish you had a bigger home, a warmer home, a more beautiful home. Or you look at your spouse and you wish they were just a bit more godly, attractive, or considerate.
It’s so easy to look at aspects of our lives and wish they were different – wish our lives looked more like our neighbours’, our friends’ in church, our teenage fantasy of what life would be like. We think if we had this, that, or the other thing, then we’d be sorted and content. Whatever it is we’re looking for – worth, joy, significance, pleasure – we are discontent with what we have and think we’ll find a better version of it elsewhere.
But there is another way – it’s to realise that the gospel is the only true source of our significance, value and worth.
Just this past week I read this and it really encouraged my heart:
First and foremost, your identity is hidden in Christ. And because of that you didn’t need one more thing to validate those decades of motherhood. You invested your whole self in raising the souls God entrusted to your care. There isn’t another career that requires more sacrifice, more round-the-clock need-meeting than motherhood. The results of such work stretch into eternity, so don’t you dare look down on your years like they were something small and now you’re smaller for not having done more. You did the most and it mattered.”
Kate Skero, Nourishing Little Souls
She addresses two things there: let’s deal with the first one first. Our identity is in Christ.
What does that even mean?
Well it means that we have absolute value and worth. Jesus thought that we were so precious that he spilled his royal blood to provide our forgiveness, freedom from sin, adoption into God’s family and eternal life. And not just that, he united himself to us in an indelible bond – our old lives are gone and we have a new identity – the very righteousness of our perfect saviour. When God the Father looks at us he sees perfection. He sees me, he sees you, he sees us – with our unique personalities and personhood and he sees the righteousness of Jesus. So think about the very best version of you – the version who never hurts other people, never thinks dark, bitter thoughts, the version who has no regrets and no secrets. The version who loves fiercely, freely, sacrificially. Well that’s who God sees, because he sees Jesus. That is what it means for your identity to be in Christ.
Therefore we don’t need one more thing to validate our life choices. Our worth is not found in our vocation, our maritial status, our giftedness, our bank balance – there is literally nothing that gives us significance but the righteousness of Christ. And in him we are perfect and God is for us. We can be perfectly content, whatever our lot.
Wow that puts things into perspective doesn’t it!
Secondly, while we shouldn’t put our sense of worth in our life choices, they are significant to God. God cares deeply about how we spend our days and what we do with the time and resources he’s given us. He doesn’t love us any more or less depending on our performance – but he does see it and he cares about the details of our lives. And those who are in Christ are able to do real good in this life.
While the world might look at me and pity me for the decision to be a stay-at-home mum, while people may be saddened by how someone with “so much potential” could spend her best years attending to the needs of tiny children and while I even feel this myself some days (believe me, being a parent is hard work and you don’t get much credit for it). Raising children, leaving a legacy, discipling the next generation of Godly men and women who will go out into the world to herald good news – that has eternal significance. Why would we wish we were in a different phase of life, when that’s what we’re doing?
And the same can apply in your situation. Just take a moment now to consider how you’re tempted to be discontented. Apply the gospel to your situation – remember the value that you have in Jesus, and remind yourself afresh of how the thing you long for (even if it’s a good thing) isn’t the answer to your joy/worth etc. That’s found in Jesus. Remember that he sees your life choices and cares about the decisions you make, and that he is able to use you for good in the situations you’re in.
If you’ve enjoyed this post, why not check out other posts in the series, by clicking the links below.