After 10 hours of driving, my husband and I walked into his parents’ house. I love coming to their spacious home. It is a place of beauty and respite for me. My mother-in-law has both the means and the talent for creating spaces worthy of a photographer’s lens. In fact, a former home was once featured in a county home tour. Over the years, I have come to accept that her taste and style far outweigh mine. So I should have been prepared to find, as soon as we entered, that the back wall wasn’t where it used to. Added on to the rear of the house was a large, bright sunroom.
My first reaction was “No, she didn’t! She doesn’t need this. She has enough already.” (Scarcity mindset, anyone?)
My in-laws are very generous and kind people who have shared much with us over the years. But our career choice has meant that we cannot own a home like theirs. And we really don’t want or need one like it. But when I saw that sunroom, well, the seeds of house-envy crept into my heart.
I knew I couldn’t let them linger long. After all, I had just read an article that asked “What if, rather than dwelling on our own circumstances, we choose instead to enter into someone else’s joy?” I determined to give thanks for what my in-laws have that I don’t. I chose gratefulness rather than envy and discontent. I chose to “be happy with those who are happy” (Romans 12:15 NLT).
Then today, I sat across the breakfast table from an older woman. She gently expressed her longing to do what I do. She has been envious of my opportunities in ministry since she is just as capable and gifted but didn’t have the same open doors when younger.
As she shared, the Spirit revealed another area of envy in my heart. I have felt this same way about women younger than me! They get opportunities that I did not. They get a Master of Divinity degree when a Masters in Christian Education was all that was available to me. They start speaking and writing in their 20s and have a whole lifetime ahead of them to grow and expand.
Talk about a perspective alignment! So now I not only choose to be grateful for my in-law’s sunroom, but I give thanks for the avenues God has created for me to minister. I thank the Holy Spirit for nudging me to take some risks, learn new things and write a book. Instead of sitting around envying what others have, I am growing and God is widening my lane.
Now I can look at the women coming behind me and cheer them on. (Do you hear the multiplication mindset?) I want to empower (Dr. Jackie Roese calls it ennobling) them to find their niche, to use their gifts, to blossom, and grow. And to rejoice when they get what I have always wanted, while letting God write my unique story. I may yet have a different ending than I ever expected.
In what areas it is difficult for you to give thanks for what others have that you do not? Why is this so?
Father God, reveal more ways in which I fail to give thanks for what others have that I do not. I want to grow in my ability to be happy with them, rather than envy them, to empower them, rather than hold them back. Thank you for what you have given me, both materially and in ministry. Please continue to write my story and I trust you with the ending.