By Lisa-Jo Baker
Seven years ago, I was commuting into work to a job that was a terrible fit, driving hours each way with daycare drop-offs that made me think amputating a limb might have been easier and more appealing. I was stuck in traffic. I was discovering a desperation to write my own stories that I didn’t know I’d had, and I was eagerly waiting for the time to live out this new passion.
There was a day I arrived at work that is printed on my mind as clearly as a photocopy. I remember how the doorknob looked. It was a kind of tarnished bronze set into a white door in a DC row house. It always stuck, and my key was uselessly stubborn to turn. I stood there trying to turn that handle on a door that led into a building where I didn’t want to be at a job I didn’t feel called to, and I couldn’t get it to open.
My hand was on the handle, and I can remember exactly the clear thought that dropped into my mind. There’s enough work in the Kingdom for everyone.
I stood, doorknob in hand, and let those words just sink in all the way down to my toes. There’s enough work in the Kingdom for everyone.
What she’s doing, what they’re hosting, what your Instagram and Facebook friends are experiencing—that’s their piece of the Kingdom. That’s their plot of land, and they’re supposed to be working at it faithfully. But you? You have your own spot in the Kingdom garden. You have your own soil waiting for seeds and seasons and harvest.
I kept commuting for large chunks of my day and writing for large chunks of my night. And slowly, God gave me new tools, different opportunities, and my piece of Kingdom garden caught a vision and some rain. Because of where I’d been, what I’d despaired, how I’d wrestled. I needed that job and commute and discomfort. I didn’t want them. But I’d needed them.
No one can steal your dream because God has built it into you.
No one can do that secret impossible that you’ve got your heart set on the way you can. Because you are the DNA of the dream. The Holy Spirit is in you.
What God gives you He gives you on purpose. This season is not an accident. You haven’t missed the boat. You are just limited by your ability to see. “Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see” (Hebrews 11:1, CEV).
But the God who planted that dream? He isn’t limited by sight. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6, NLT). I am. I am certain of it.
But in the meantime, we have to get up on Mondays and get into our cars and take care of our responsibilities and change the laundry from the washer to the dryer and show up for parent-teacher conferences and work evaluations and figure out how to live without wishing we were living like she does. On those days, here are three things to keep in mind:
1. Be Careful If and How You Confess Your Jealousy.
One of the downsides of confession is that while it might make you feel better, it can make your friend feel like she was mauled by a lion she had no idea was stalking her.
Telling friends how jealous you are of their harvest could sow a seed of doubt and regret into a once-joyful gardener’s bit of dirt. Confessing your jealousy puts the burden on them, instead of where it should be—on you. It unfairly shifts the responsibility to process jealousy in a healthy way from the person in the know to the person who has no clue what’s been going on.
Once jealousy has started to rot away the supporting beams of a friendship, we need confession; we need to recruit a friend to come in like a trusted contractor and help us repair the damage, so that it’s safe to walk around in our friendships again. Sometimes, however, that kind of deep, jealousy wood-rot hasn’t begun yet. Instead, you’ve just noticed a tiny spot of what might be water damage. And now’s the time to intervene. Immediately. Before there’s a chance for any of that water to actually stain or strip or rot through the foundation of a friendship.
2. Guard Your Friends from Jealousy.
When one of my kids gets what’s supposed to be a special one-on-one treat, they can’t seem to restrain themselves from rushing into the house when they get home and announcing what they got to everyone else who was left behind.
But for us grown-ups who should know better, we’re sometimes just as reckless with our blessings as my five-year-old. It’s one thing to take delight in God’s good gifts; it’s another thing entirely to paint them in Technicolor and list them in excruciating detail for everyone around us. Joseph learned the hard way what kind of effect that had on the people around him. We would do well to learn from his experience (Genesis 37).
There is a time to share our opportunities, accomplishments, and joys. But there’s also a time to treasure them in our hearts, content with private delight. This is becoming harder and harder in a culture that glorifies sharing every tiny detail of our lives. But we can do better. We can remember to guard the hearts of our friends and find tender ways to share news that we know might cause damage to a friend whom we love. Surely the friendship is more significant than the news we’re dying to share. Let’s keep living Christ’s challenge to die to ourselves, even in our moments of deepest accomplishment and grandest success. Let’s die to the temptation to flash our news around like giddy children who don’t know any better.
3. Dare to Encourage Instead of Compare.
There is power in speaking words of blessing and encouragement over someone else. Proverbs says, “The power of the tongue is life and death—those who love to talk will eat what it produces” (18:21, ISV). A vivid picture—the words we speak will either be the hearty, healthy food that satisfies or the empty junk food that leaves us feeling bloated and dissatisfied.
Start small and watch it snowball. List the one thing you love most about your friend. Then write down the ways her opportunity or new job or new baby or new book or raise or song adds blessing to your own life. Do they offer you hospitality or a safe place for your small group to meet? Do they offer you a chance to hold a tiny package of fresh life in your arms that reminds you Jesus is in the business of making all things new? Or do they offer words to read or listen to or pass on that pour life into your tired ears? Now, go find your friend. E-mail or call or meet for coffee and let her know. Let her know the specific ways that this unique moment in time in her life is a blessing to you. Bless her back with your words and your encouragement. Say the words even if you don’t feel the feelings yet.
Speaking all the ways that your friend encourages you, through her one-of-a-kind way of living out the purpose God’s put on her life, will fill up your hungry spaces with the satisfaction of truth instead of the bitter crusts of comparison.
Lisa-Jo Baker has been the community manager for incourage.me, an online home for women all over the world, for nearly a decade. She is also the author of Surprised by Motherhood, and her writings have been syndicated from New Zealand to New York. She lives just outside Washington, DC, with her husband and 3 very loud kids, where she connects, encourages and cham-pions women in person and through her popular blog, lisajobaker.com.
Adapted excerpt from Never Unfriended: The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships by Lisa-Jo Baker, Community Manager for (in)courage, with permission from B&H Books. Copyright 2017.