Projected Images and Pretend Lives

The regimental surgeon made us squirm as he held up what could have been medieval torture devices, but were really medical tools used in the Revolutionary War.

A farmer’s wife rolled a slightly wrinkled potato in a barrel of sand, lifted the lid to a jar of pickled eggs, and ran her hand through the dried fruit and beans she had prepared.

The cloth maker laid wool and linen socks out to dry after dipping them in a natural yellow dye of onion skin. IMG_3442

At the encampment, the soldiers drilled us on firing a cannon before shouting out, “make ready” and signaling us all to cover our ears for the blast.

This summer we’ve toured two of the three major historic sites in our area, asked all the usual questions about 17th and 18th century life, and chatted about whether we would want to live before refrigeration, air conditioning, indoor plumbing, voting rights for women, the abolition of slavery, the discovery of antibiotics, and the creation of Wal-Mart and Target.

We think not.

But we happily visit to see how people lived in other times without experiencing extreme levels of discomfort ourselves.

Sure, we might be losing ten pounds a day sweating in the middle of July while listening to the interpreters talk about cooking in clay ovens and fighting the British army.  But, we’re wearing short sleeves and shorts and we retreat to air conditioning as soon as the tour ends.

And really, aren’t we always prevented from fully experiencing life as another person?  We might glance over someone’s life, making judgments and assumptions from a safe distance, but we’ll never fully know what it feels like to be her.

It’s a lesson I just never seem to learn, one that trips me into pits of envy and then shocks me into disappointment just as quickly over and over again.

These women I’ve thought were perfect, the ones I envied, had the houses, the marriages, the kids, the finances, the vacations, the looks and style I wanted–everything just exactly right.

I made my assumptions based on superficial evidence and my envy grew based on inaccurate and unfair comparisons between what her life appeared to be and what I knew my life was.

Yet, inevitably the façade collapses.  The truth is no one’s life is perfect.  Too often the closed doors of her pristine home concealed struggles and strife no one expected or knew existed.

If we’re ever to overcome envy, we have to stop being duped by projected images and pretend lives and choose contentment in our own real lives with our real husbands in our real homes with our real kids.

Because the endless comparisons cost us contentment, rob us of peace, and steal joy right out of our hearts.

Kay Warren writes:

Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right and the determined choice to praise God in all things (Choose Joy)

In a similar way, George Fox wrote this prayer:

Grant us, O Lord, the blessing of those whose minds are stayed on You, so that we may be kept in perfect peace: a peace which cannot be broken.  Let not our minds rest upon any creature, but only in the Creator; not upon goods, things, houses, lands, inventions of vanities, or foolish fashions, lest, our peace being broken, we become cross and brittle and given over to envy.  From all such, deliver us, O God, and grant us Your peace  (Yours is the Day, Lord; Yours is the Night, 42).

We choose peace when we discipline our mind to be content with what God has given us. 

More than this.  We don’t just accept the gifts God gives; we are grateful for them.  We find ways to give thanks even when it’s hard.  We redirect our mind whenever we focus on what we don’t have and choose instead to praise God for what He’s done and how He’s blessed us.

Proverbs tells us:

“A tranquil heart is life to the body, but jealousy is rottenness to the bones” (Proverbs 14:30 HCSB).

Envy can eat us up like cancer, destroying us from the inside out.  It’s crippling, devastating, and, if left untreated, all-consuming.

But that tranquil heart is a heart at peace, content with God’s gifts, certain that God uniquely designed you for these blessings and this life.  Yes, His gifts to us are good.

It’s a heart quietly and purposefully thankful for what is real rather than fooled into wanting imagined perfections, fictional ideals, faulty perceptions, and mistaken judgments.  Contentment requires getting real and getting grateful, recognizing that we don’t need perfection in order to have joy; we just need Jesus.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Not the Other Mom

Her Other Mom cooks yummy pancakes.

Her Other Mom bought all of her clothes (although I clearly remember shopping myself).012

Her Other Mom has a big house with a pink toilet in it.

Her Other Mom owns a dog.

Her Other Mom tells her when to eat, when she can have a snack, when she can go outside to play, what shows to watch on television, and whether or not it’s bedtime.

Her Other Mom has that book, that Kindle app, that game, that movie, and every toy that’s ever been advertised on television…ever.

We’re not exactly sure when it happened or how, but at some point my three-year-old transitioned from a mini-van full of fairly typical imaginary friends to an imaginary “Other Mom.”

Eventually the Other Mom had an Other Dad and Other Sisters and even Brothers, and she chats about this entire Other Family all day long.

We laugh most of the time (quietly to ourselves, of course) and let her chatter on about this pretend family.

Once I mistakenly corrected her, reminding her at dinner that it wasn’t the cape-wearing superhero Other Mom who gave her a birthday gift, but it was in fact me.

She cried.

So, I mostly leave it be and certainly don’t use the words “pretend” or “imaginary,” “not real” or “fake” whenever she launches into one of her Other Mom fairy tales.

But the other day, I leaned in close to my little one and whispered, “Who loves you?”

Without a second’s breath, she blurted out “My Other Mo……” and then she stopped.  She put down the crayon she was coloring with and let it roll on the table, concentrating on my question.  She pushed back the flyaway hairs escaping from her ponytail.

Then she looked right into my eyes and said, “You!” and giggled at me like we had just shared the best knock-knock joke ever heard by a preschooler.

“And who else loves you?” I asked her, pressing in on the moment.

“My cats….and Lauren and Victoria and my Dad.”

Not her Other Dad, not those Other Sisters, or the Brothers or the imaginary dog…

We love her, this real family who takes care of her real needs and buys her real clothes and cooks her real food.

It’s innocent, of course, this imagination of hers.  Most days, I try to marvel at it rather than question too much whether deficiencies in me gave her reason to create an Other Mom (I don’t, after all, have a pink toilet in my home).

But then there’s God and then there’s us and it really isn’t innocent much of the time, forgetful, yes…apathetic at times…generally oblivious in some moments.

Like Israel just a short hike from Egypt, not long enough for a generation to develop spiritual amnesia about their miraculous deliverance out of slavery, still they were forgetful beings.  Moses delayed on the mountain with the Lord, so Aaron threw some gold into the fire and pulled out a golden cow.

The people looked at that man-made object and declared, “Israel, this is your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!” (Exodus 32:4).

And they did it again generations later.  King Jeroboam decided it was too difficult for the people to trek to Jerusalem to worship in the temple.  It required too much sacrifice, too much effort.

So, “he made two golden calves, and he said to the people, ‘Going to Jerusalem is too difficult for you. Israel, here is your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.'” (1 Kings 12:28).

How?

How could they give any fake god or false idol the credit for miraculous salvation?

How could worship be so fickle?

How could they forget who God is and what He had done?

How could we?

We’re not three-year-olds with active imaginations.  We’re His children who forget to thank Him, forget to worship Him, forget to give Him glory for what He’s done, forget today what miracle He did for us yesterday, forget to look for Him in the middle of our everyday lives.

We too often just accept the gifts without pausing to see, really see, the way they drip with grace.

Praising Him one day; forgetting the next; overlooking His goodness; blaming Him for what is wrong and not thanking Him for what is good….so we fall and so we fail, and so we end up worshiping golden calves of our own making.

But God reminded His people: “I am the Lord your God, who brought your out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery” (Exodus 20:2).

Yes, He is the God worthy of our praise.  He is the God who rescued us.  He is the God who loves us.

Yes, He is God and God alone.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King