When I was a very young girl, I remember being frustrated by not being able to have some popular item of clothing. Maybe it was Guess jeans or Tretorns…I don’t recall the exact item. I do recall being intensely jealous of other girls who always had the newest things. For some reason, I remember a singular moment of this jealousy. I was at school, in the hallway with red lockers on either side. I was thinking to myself how unfair it all was and how I wished I could have her things. Why couldn’t I have them instead of her? I don’t remember who “she” was. I just remember thinking that I wanted to have the things instead of her.
After pining and pitying myself a bit, I became aware how selfish and unfair I was. Why did I deserve the things more than she did? What made me think that I was somehow more worthy or more valuable than someone else? Why was I such a wretched and selfish girl?
This moment in my internal life resonated with me so deeply, that I’ve carried it with me ever since. It comes back to me occasionally, when something reminds me of selfish longing. I’m not even sure why my heart considers this moment, of all my many wretched moments, as one of such great import to imprint it so clearly on my memory.
Today, as I gazed out of the window of the train, I saw an ordinary man standing next to his old and badly faded car in a parking lot. I imagined him driving his car home. I imagined his car might be noisy or smoke a little and that his home was a modest and plain place, perhaps near the highway and surrounded by other modest and plain houses. I imagined his neighbors. Generally nice folks, though money is perpetually tight. The children clad in hand-me-downs, the dinner, always a trick of spreading the contents of the cupboard to make do for the family.
This is when I recalled my moment of realizing how wicked and selfish my heart is. Expectations. I had expected that I should have what my classmate had. What does this man expect of his own life? Had he given up hoping and dreaming for a new car because it simply wasn’t worth thinking on? I feel certain he’d started life out expecting more, but where did his expectations lie now that he had experienced how difficult and unyielding life can be? The haves and the have-nots. He’s a have-not. How does that impact his life-experience?
I think we adjust our expectations to fit our reality. I think this adjustment might impact what our reality turns out to be. Then, we are caught in a circle of failing after failing or success after success, as the case may be. Maybe it is important to cast high your hopes. You just have to be wiling to accept disappointment. But you’re probably bound to get more than if you aim lower so as to avoid feeling cheated.
As I sit in my comfortable home, with my best friend and husband in the other room, I consider that I feel quite fortunate. And I consider that I don’t deserve any of this more than the man with the crappy car. Or more than a poor kid living on a trash heap in India. I wonder if that man feels so fortunate. I wonder how hard-scrabble life can be and still be met with a sense of acceptance and joy.
Some Christians get caught up in praying for God to bless them with wealth and believing that they can be wealthy if they pray right or hard enough. But what about those Christians born into a rougher environ? I believe that God does not turn a blind eye to the pleas of people in third world countries. I just think that Americans have a skewed view of Christianity in this regard. I don’t think God’s best for us is wealth or power. These things corrupt us. I think His best for us is spiritual depth and wholeness, healing to the extent that we learn to love all people as He does. More than ourselves. True blessing is getting to the place that you think “she needs this more than me” and gladly give away the thing you treasure. It’s a journey I’m still making.