We have everything we need

Air rage – I’ve never experienced it, only read about it thankfully. Angry people make me uncomfortable, so the thought of being trapped with an angry person while 30,000 feet in the air sounds terrible. But it happens. And it happens a whole lot more on planes with first class cabins.

It’s not the pampered rich up front who are kicking up a stink, it’s the act of walking through the first class cabin on your way to cramped economy that significantly increases the incidence of air rage. If you enter the plane from the middle or rear, skipping that envy-inducing walk, the incidence of air rage is the same as if everyone was seated in economy (read the paper here).

As humans we’re wired to make comparisons with others, and usually it’s upwards to those who have more and are more than us. (I enjoyed this podcast from NPR’s Hidden Brain on the subject). While it mightn’t make you mad enough to act out on a plane, it can be demoralising and discontenting. And it’s so darn pervasive.

At the time of writing it is summer school holidays here in New Zealand. And it’s good. I like that the kids can sleep in, binge-read, get creative, and stay up late. But I do feel a lot like pinball in a machine, bouncing from one child’s request, to another child’s drama, to my to-do list, to food preparation (why must they always need feeding?), and back to a drama once again. The other day I escaped to do some supermarket shopping, and I glanced enviously at other women dressed for work, and I found myself thinking, “I wish I could go to work!”. Um, what? I’m probably living their dream, but I’m envious of their 9 to 5. Crazy.

Not all comparison is bad, it can be motivating and consoling, doing some good for our souls. But most often the kind of comparison my mind is busy with has unhealthy consequences. And, boy, can our minds be busy with comparison these days. 

Go a couple of generations back, and my great-grandmother was living in a tiny settlement called Sørheim, there were only 4 or 5 families there. Once a month they would row up the fjord to Ørsta to go to church and catch up on the news from the village. In that kind of isolation, there was only a handful of women she could compare herself to. Come back to today, and I can see into the lives of women all over the world on social media (the carefully curated highlights of course). Global connectivity is a great thing in many ways, but it has ramped up the ages-old drive to compare. (I first heard this example in Jon Acuff’s excellent book Finish).

This drive to comparison and discontent might be normal and human, but it’s our broken humanity, our sinful nature, that drives it. And it goes right back to the very beginning, that first misstep, that first reach beyond contentment to grab… the apple.

You gon’ do what Adam do? Or say, “Baby, let’s put this back on the tree” ’cause We have everything we need  Woo ooh, ooh ooh

Kanye West, Everything We Need

My 12 year-old doesn’t think I’m that cool, but I just quoted Kanye West, so surely that does something for me?

Whatever you think of the man and his music, Kanye is on to something there… This dissatisfaction with what we have, this constant grasping for more is rooted in a faulty belief that we need more. When, in fact, we have everything we need.

Adam and Eve were living as close to perfection as anyone ever has since, a literal Edenic existence, but still they wanted more. The only thing they couldn’t have, they reached out to take. Because at heart they believed what they already have wasn’t enough. And when I look deeper into my own thinking, I find the same lie at work: what you have right now is not enough, you need something more/different/better.

Unhealthy comparison is rooted in that lie, and then circles back around to feed that lie and make it stronger. When I compare my life (the bloopers in particular) to the highlights over everyone else’s, of course the verdict is INSUFFICIENT. And from there flows envy, shame, selfish ambition, resentment, and division (sounding an awful lot like the “Results of the Sinful Nature” in Galatians 5:19-21, just saying).

So, “I have everything I need”? Really?

Yes really. But to see it you’ve got to look at things from a different perspective. Shuck off the lenses of Western modernity, abandon the striving for autonomy, success, status, and material possessions. “Set your sights on the realities of heaven… not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).

It always comes back to the “in Christ”, the “with Christ” – that’s the truly true of who we are. No lack in our earthly reality can separate us from that love.

…For nothing in the universe has the power to diminish his love toward us. Troubles, pressures, and problems are unable to come between us and heaven’s love. What about persecutions, deprivations, dangers, and death threats? No, for they are all impotent to hinder omnipotent love.

Romans 8:35, The Passion Translation

Sometimes it’s easier to embrace a truth like that with regards to the big issues, but lose sight of it in the small issues. It’s often easier to lean into His love in the big struggles than in the daily grind.

But it’s the daily grind that wears us down, where the constant comparison cultivates a pervasive discontent. But even in that space WE HAVE EVERYTHING WE NEED – it’s reality, and we need to set our sights on it.

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