I brought a rush of hot, summer air with me as I walked through my friend’s front door. I turned the corner down her hall, and there they were: my friend, just a handful of days postpartum, and her tiny child sleeping wrapped against her chest. Tears blurred my vision. I often cry when my friends have babies.
When she first told me she was pregnant, I had burst into tears.
“You,” I told her with utter sincerity, “are going to be a wonderful mother.”
It was true — motherhood was embedded in her DNA. But I wasn’t sure if it was embedded in mine.
Now, my friend stood up from her chair, a smile stretching across her cheeks, and placed the baby in my arms. I sat on her leather couch and stared at him, overwhelmed by his presence despite how little space he took up in my arms. He was light, precious. I couldn’t get over how tiny his nose was, or how I could feel his lips blowing the smallest stream of air each time he exhaled.
For the next hour she recounted her birth story. She wasn’t tired like I expected. She was vibrant and energized, as if motherhood had given her distinct purpose and a reason for being on this earth. Her face was awash with color; she bounced around the room even though she had given birth just a few days earlier. She was a woman who had partaken in the miracle of childbirth, and the adrenaline was still coursing through her body.
I held her son in silence while she spoke, my heart racing as I listened. I grew increasingly overwhelmed as she talked — like the very air was closing in on me.
With each word she spoke, the lurching in my chest grew tighter and more pronounced. I didn’t know what to say. Even though neither of us had acknowledged it, I knew everything had suddenly changed. I didn’t know what she needed now that she had a baby. I didn’t know what our friendship would look like now that she was a mother. A chasm had formed between us that I didn’t know how to cross. My envy was thick, and the depth of my loneliness felt inescapable. My friend didn’t know it then, but I wanted everything she seemed to have: a husband, a house, and now, a baby.
I wanted to celebrate with her, but I also wanted to leave. I sat on my hands instead. Eventually, I collected my purse and told her I should go. Her eyes were still radiant. She was in her own beautiful world, and she couldn’t help but glow.
I hugged her, kissed the top of her child’s head, and assured her to call me if she needed anything. Then I climbed into my car and cried.
My envy, pain, and loneliness crowded out my capacity for celebration. I didn’t know how to hold my envy and her happiness together in my hands. I was watching the hopes and dreams I had for myself play out in someone else’s life, and I was terrified that was the way it would always be.
I put my car in drive and cried the entire way home.
I would’ve liked my envy and loneliness to be fixed with a marriage and children. I would’ve preferred God to hand me a husband the way someone hands me French fries at the drive-through window. For so long I kept my eyes fixed on my friends’ lives. I felt like God was making all of their dreams come true and had somehow forgotten about me. Instead of keeping my eyes on Jesus and on the adventures He might have in store for me, I focused on what I didn’t have.
The apostle Peter had a similar experience. In John 21, Peter and Jesus share a deeply personal moment that offers much healing and redemption. Near the end of the chapter, Jesus gives Peter a glimpse of how he’s going to die. Talk about intense. Peter doesn’t know how to handle what Jesus tells him, so he awkwardly looks over at John and asks, “Lord, what about him?” (v. 21).
I imagine Jesus keeping His eyes on Peter as He replies, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” (v. 22).
I do this a lot. I look out at the world, and I see my friends getting married and having babies, and I feel my heart shatter a little with fear and loneliness, and I ask Jesus, “What about her? Why is her life going the way she wants it to? Why are her dreams coming true?”
And I think Jesus keeps His tender eyes trained on me and says with kindness, “What is that to you? You must follow Me.”
You must follow Me.
Jesus hasn’t called me to follow my friends. He hasn’t even called me to necessarily follow my dreams. He’s called me to follow Him.
When we trust Jesus, we become free.
Free to live the lives and dream the dreams He has for us.
Free to celebrate what He has in store for our friends.
Free to rejoice instead of envy.
Even if it still hurts a little (which, in all honesty, it does), I can keep my eyes on Jesus through the pain. I can celebrate and rejoice with my friends over what God is doing in their lives—because I can choose to trust Him instead of envying others. Trust is more powerful and brave than envy anyway.
Envy is self-centered. Trust is generous.
Envy is fearful. Trust is courageous.
Envy sees only the negative. Trust chooses, over and over, to see the good.
I can cross our new life-stage divide with arms wide open, ready to celebrate all God has for my friend, and trusting Jesus has adventures in store for me.
And if, in the midst of my celebration and trust, the envy and pain and loneliness still sneak in, I’ll bring every ache into the light of Jesus. Because no matter what happens in the lives of the people around me, I’m choosing to follow Him.
Hey friends, if you resonated with my story, or if you are dealing with relational tension of any kind, you’re going to want to get a copy of Come Sit with Me. In addition to my story, you’ll find 25 other (in)courage writers going first with their own faith wrestling and hope wrangling. I love how this book helps us to:
- delight in our differences
- honor and value others even when we disagree
- connect before we correct
- trust that God is working even when people disappoint us
Discover how God can work through your disagreements, differences, and discomfort in ways you might never expect.
Come Sit With Me is now available wherever books are sold, and we’d love to send you the introduction and the first two chapters for FREE! Sign up here. You can also get a free peek with our YouVersion Come Sit With Me Bible Reading Plan! Have you read Come Sit With Me yet?