When you hear or read the word worship, an experience or an image comes to mind. You’re singing in a church, you’re listening to praise music in your car on your drive to work, you’re fulfilling your God-directed calling with a happy heart, or you’re thanking God in prayer.
Can a person worship God and something else? God would say no: “No other gods, only me” (Exodus 20:3, MSG version). Most of us think we are in God’s good graces if we attend church on Sundays, pray for others, check off every box on our Christian to-do list. But is it possible to follow Jesus and worship something else?
Because I have. God revealed to me very clearly late last year that I worship my lack and have been doing so my entire life.
Here’s a quick run-down of what this worship has looked and sounded like:
Age 17: Why did you miss 2 points on this assignment? Why did you only score 15 points tonight?
Age 22: Why are you only earning this much of an income working this hard?
Age 27: Why can’t you get pregnant? What’s wrong with you?
Age 29: This house is way too small and is starting to get embarrassing. Better move to a wealthier neighborhood.
Age 34: You only made this much selling LuLaRoe this month? Maybe it’s time you give it up.
These are just a few of the lies I told myself. The irony in this post, though, is that I actually “bettered” myself and “fixed” all of those problems by striving, striving, striving. I kept telling myself that once this goal had been met, once I was no longer “without” in that specific area of life, that I would appreciate all that I had.
It’s a really sad state to find yourself in, to always be wanting more. Oddly enough, though, I feel like our social system teaches us early on to go for more, go for broke, reach for the stars, insert any other goal-setting cliche. What can we teach our children, then, when they don’t achieve this or obtain that? I think that’s just as equally important of a lesson as goal setting is: gratitude and a shift in perspective. It’s certainly not wrong to strive for seemingly unachievable goals, but the crash and burn that results in expectations not being met is really destructive. We must teach (and implement) a quick rebound method (once a basketball player, always using basketball terminology).
I just recently finished Havilah Cunnington’s new book Stronger than the Struggle. (Stop what you’re doing right now and snag this book. A more comprehensive review coming later.) How glaring were her words on page 192: “We can spend our days focusing on our lack [emphasis added], the places that turned up empty. Or we can focus our full attention on celebrating our hard work and all God has done, coming to a place of celebration.”
Once this obsession with my lack became so clear to me, I have started to see everything with a different lens. Instead of focusing on that one wall in our house that is still bare over a year later, I have started to appreciate the little corner I worked so hard on decorating and styling in our foyer. Instead of groaning about having to get up early every single day (wait…I still kinda do that…), I focus on how much I love my job. I truly do. When I’m feeling exasperated with my kids arguing over some snack or toy, I separate them, and it is in that moment where I can choose to look into their eyes and become so joyful that they’re happy and healthy. Well…maybe not happy in the moment, but you get what I mean. I literally cried the other night giving my kids a bath and then again when Daddy found their baby videos. Gosh, I’m so lucky to be their mom. And I’m certainly not perfect (though there were many years of my life where I wished that you would think I was), so this mindset shift isn’t always foolproof. But even if I’m thinking from a space of gratitude and positivity more often than not, I’m a heck of a lot happier than I was in years past.
For too long, comparison has been my standard and my motivator. If comparison is your standard, you’re always going to be lacking. And if you’re always in the lacking mindset, you really and truly are hurting yourself and your relationships with the people who love you. Take it from me, the recovering perfectionist.