Aubrey Sampson describes herself as a girl who can go “cray cray”, but when I met her she was as calm and encouraging a person with a mega-watt smile as I had ever come across. She told me about her book, and got teary-eyed in the telling, and I could not wait to ask her to write for this blog. Her words are a treat and I, for one, cannot wait to get my hands on Overcomer when it releases in October.
I have a Pinterest board titled, Kitchen Smitchen, and it’s filled with stunning images of stainless steel appliances, posh backsplashes, and gorgeous granite countertops. My real life kitchen, on the other hand, is filled with 1980’s eyesores. But the sad reality is, on a church planter’s salary, a dream kitchen is the stuff of fairy tales.
Or so I thought.
A few months ago, to my utter astonishment, my husband went all heroic-DIY on me. He restored our kitchen cabinets, repainted the entire room, and even replaced our appallingly-ugly island light. It was an affordable attempt to make my Pinterest dreams come true. The new kitchen looks gorgeous. I love it. I am so grateful.
And yet…just a few days following the unveiling of the new kitchen, I began to think of all the little things I wanted for it. A circular rug would be nice. Some new coffee mugs would be cute to display. Nothing too grand or out of reach, really, but before I knew it I was hunting the internet incessantly for sales, ignoring my family to scour decorating apps, and tiptoeing down the stairs while my unsuspecting husband slept to search, uninterrupted, through EVERY DESIGN BLOG THAT HAS EVER EXISTED.
There’s a reason why Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods and Disney’s latest production of the same title are bookended by two powerful words: I wish. The point is wishing is cyclical. We wish. We receive. We wish again.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with online shopping, I began fixating on what I didn’t have, couldn’t afford, and yet desperately longed for. I wasted long hours placing household items into online shopping carts only to delete them in a moment of anti-materialist resolve, only to later add them again.
My wishing swiftly mutated into obsessing, and likewise I transformed from a sweet Sondheim fairy tale character into a nighttime Gatsby; surrounded by my new beautiful kitchen while staring out at the Other Kitchens just out of reach. And all of this was literally in the span of a week.
In scientific terms: Girl. Gone. Cray. Cray.
Incidentally, as swiftly as the wishing came, the shame followed. I hated myself for this covetousness, this greed. All around me neighbors are losing homes and jobs, and yet I’m daring to wish.
I think of my grandmother. Raised by share croppers in Oklahoma, a widow with four children and still reeling from the residual impact of the Great Depression, Mamaw would deny every gift we tried to give her. “But you need a dishwasher,” we’d say.
“No I don’t. I have always washed my dishes by hand and will do so until the day the good Lord takes me home.”
Mamaw wasted nothing and shared everything. She was a woman content to decorate her house with newspaper clippings and photos of flower bouquets. She most certainly was not a woman possessed by Pinterest or owned by Overstock.com. Sensible Mamaw would never have wasted money—let alone a commodity as valuable as sleep— to pore over images of farmhouse-chic soap dispensers.
These are such first world problems, I know that. At the end of the day they are also Garden of Eden problems. I am Gatsby but I am also Eve. I dwell on what I don’t have. I’m discontent. I don’t believe God has provided everything I need. I wish.
And let’s be honest, right now my struggle happens to be with material items, but if it wasn’t, I’d be longing for other things: approval, accolades, affection.
“We either love wrong things or we love them in the wrong ways,” writes Jen Pollock Michel in Teach Us to Want. “Instead of loving God faithfully, we devote our affection to trifles…We seek our good in something or someone other than our eternal husband, who is our God.”
In an attempt to stop the madness, to honor my DIY husband, and more significantly, my Eternal One, I finally began asking myself some difficult questions about wishing: What would it look like for me to cultivate gratefulness? Can I give generously to others rather than hoarding in my online shopping cart? Can I enjoy beauty without becoming greedy? Can I learn to wish for the right things?
And the most essential question of all: Can I learn to be content with nothing, knowing I possess everything in Christ?
So I’m trying. I’m taking the design apps off my phone, keeping a thankfulness journal, practicing generosity and contentment. I’m not buying the rug or the soap dispenser.
Even so, something in me knows this: my true contentment will never be found by forcing my possessions back into their proper place. It will be through remembering that Christ possesses me.
Even in my “cray cray,” even in my shame, even in my wishing, I am His.
We are His and He will be faithful to transform our desires. At the same time, I don’t think the point of our Christian lives is to stop wishing. I actually believe God will help us to continue wishing, because at the end of the day, all of our desires are designed to point to, and be met in, Him. As Sondheim put it, “To be happy and forever you must see your wish come true.”
In other words, we will wish until we find the ultimate object of our wishes—Jesus.