She’s living my dream...
I thought to myself as I scrubbed the carrots in my hand and started vigorously chopping them. My blood was pumping full speed with a surge of jealousy. I had just finished mindlessly browsing social media while my soup broth simmered and my heart boiled with discontent.
In the midst of preparing dinner for my family, I saw “her” living the life I wanted. Traveling, wearing adorable clothes, having the cutest Joanna Gaines-like house. You know the girl. She’s the one you look at and immediately think: She has the life I deserve, the life I always dreamed of.
Maybe she's the girl you have a hard time loving because your envy takes over your emotions when you spend time with her. Most likely, this infamous “dream-stealing” girl has always been there, nagging at your heart, stealing your joy and contentment … and she doesn't even mean to. As a matter of fact, she is probably looking right back at you thinking about the areas of your life she wishes she had.
She’s the girl in elementary school who could play every sport well, was liked by all the people you wanted to be liked by, and had a closet full of name brand outfits when yours was full of sale rack and hand-me-down items. But she’s also the girl who felt like she was never enough. She was striving to be what everyone wanted her to be.
She’s the girl in middle and high school who was allowed to wear whatever she wanted, highlighted her hair, went on big vacations to fancy beaches and achieved the honor roll. Or she's the girl you felt like you had to look like, talk like, be like, and live like in order to measure up. But she’s also the girl who wanted to be like everyone else, too, and on the inside she ached to be loved without having to perform.
She’s the girl in college who effortlessly looked good, even in sweats and a messy bun. She was in a sorority and had a boyfriend her first week of school. You wondered why things seemed to be easy for her, when really she was looking back at you wondering the same thing.
She’s the girl sitting next to you in church, the girl on the other side of the screen, the girl living next door, the girl who is married, and the girl who is single. She’s the girl with a baby in her womb and the girl who just laid her baby in a tiny grave. Maybe she's the girl who is pursuing her dream job and the girl who is trying to get by as a single mother in whatever job she can find that will provide.
She’s the girl who is just like you and me.
We’ve all been in her shoes, and we’ve all been on both sides—the “desirer” and the “desired.” We see our neighbor and the dream she is living and refuse to rejoice with her because we desire her dream more than we want the one we are living. And at the same time, we are “that girl” to someone else. There is most likely a girl who is looking at you right now, desiring your life.
We are on both sides at all times, and we can never see the full picture from each angle. But we can certainly enter each day with a gospel perspective that realizes “her” dream isn’t the one God has given you, and yours isn’t hers. When we learn to live content lives that are consumed by the gifts and undeserved blessing of knowing Jesus Christ, her dream fades and you will start to embrace his dream, his way of living.
It all begins with the heart
We can’t see the struggles of her heart, the sting of discontentment in her soul, the sorrow she’s had to behold and bear. We can’t see her longings, her insecurities, her past, or her childhood. And we can’t see what her marriage is like behind the filtered photos she shares or how her home looks on the average Monday morning when kids are throwing tantrums and spilled milk is souring on the floor. We can’t see her pile of laundry behind closed doors or her bank account. The problem with wanting her dream more than the one we are living, is that we can’t see the bigger picture.
God, in his infinite wisdom, has limited our hearts and our vision. He narrows what we can see so we don’t get distracted by the greater things, but often, we spend our time trying to peer into the lives of others instead of peering into the one he has given us. Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that he has put eternity in our hearts so that we would long for his dream for us, not her dream.
When we focus on her life more than we focus on the one with which God has blessed us, we miss multitudes of tiny joys that could add up to a mountain of praise.
Look with Eyes of Love
I’ve been this woman a lot in life, looking at my sisters in Christ with eyes of envy rather than Christlike love. When I take my eyes off of Jesus and the infinite blessings I have as his daughter and disciple, I often find myself wanting her life more than my present one. I want her closet, her home, and her circumstances more than my own. I have even felt like I deserved it more than she does. After all, she is living my dream.
As I scrubbed those carrots, I glanced around at my temporary, in-transition circumstances. I smelled the soup simmering on the stove. I heard my child squeal with delight in the background. And I felt the warm sun gleaming through the window. Who am I to believe I deserve her dream when I’ve been given one to steward right here, right now?
Her Dream Isn't Mine, and Mine isn't Mine
God created us for a better dream, a lasting one. Sin penetrated this world in Genesis 3 with the jealousy and discontent of Adam and Eve’s hearts. They listened to the serpent’s skillful deceit and believed that the grass really was greener on the other side. What they found out, though, was that the grass actually dies on the other side. God had already put them in a flourishing, perfect place, but they left it in pursuit of “more”—a more they didn’t even know they needed or wanted.
Satan always tempts us with more than he can’t actually give. The “more” he offers us is more heartache, more envy, more discontent, more longing, and more brokenness. His more is not the more we need—what we need is more of the Gospel of grace that proclaims to us our God and Savior is more than enough.
It’s easy to look at Adam and Eve with frustration in our hearts wondering why they left perfection for a lie, but we do the same thing every single day when we look to “her” dream and want it more than our own. We think, Why would God give her what I deserve, what I want, what would make me happy? When God looks right back at us and says, “I’ve given you all that you need in Christ Jesus right where you are. Steward it well and savor it all for my glory.”
Trading Her Dream for His Dream
God’s dream for us is one of contentment, freedom, fullness, and joy (Ps. 16:11; Gal. 5:1; John 10:10; Phil. 4:11–13). His dream is not that we would have her life, but that we would have the life Jesus died on the cross to give us (John 3:16; 1 Pet. 1:3–5). His dream isn’t that our life would be easy, but that we would find his grace and mercy in the hard moments. It’s not that we would get what we want, but that we would find that all we need is him alone. His dream is that we would become more like Jesus and grasp the desire for eternity knit into our souls.
I looked up from my carrot cutting that day and asked God to release me from the shackles of wanting her dream. I asked him to open my eyes to see the dream he has for me, and the hope of Christ I can hold on to, even in the moments I wish I could bypass. Then I set aside my phone and remembered that my dream isn’t even mine. Even if I were living my “perfect dream” for this life, it still wouldn’t satisfy the ache within my soul. Her dream and my dream never could do that. It is God’s dream for us, found in Christ Jesus, that makes any other dream pale in comparison.
What we both need
What she needs, what I need, and what you need, isn’t to live the dream of another. It is to humbly come before God and realize that the grass isn’t greener on the other side. It is the greenest right where he has placed us.
While eating my soup that night around the dinner table with my family, I tasted a physical reminder that God’s dreams come through cutting, scrubbing, simmering, and soaking. They come through suffering, wrestling, and soul refining. Her dream isn’t mine, and mine isn’t mine. God’s dream is mine in Christ Jesus, the glory of the Gospel made real in my life. That is the best kind of dream I want to live, and that’s the dream I want “her” to live as well.