The Facebook photo stream of children dressed as glittery snowflakes and sugar plum fairies for the Nutcracker filled me with regret. Should I have signed my daughters up for ballet? The arrival of Christmas card photos with perfect families on tropical vacations stirred up a deep longing for a different, better life. Even friendly deliveries of holiday cookies provided an inferiority complex because I’m a terrible baker. Don’t get me started on decorations. I’d drive like a mad woman to the craft store because I thought we needed a better Christmas wreath.
The holidays made me feel like we were living the wrong life. A more exciting family life was somewhere else, at another holiday table with poinsettias and elaborate gingerbread houses and happy, popular daughters in shimmering Christmas dresses from the trendiest stores. And in this scenario, I’m thinner, richer, and more accomplished.
New Year’s Eve only promised another year of the same old comparisons and self-evaluation. As the Time’s Square Ball dropped, I watched from my outdated television from my old couch in my unflattering pajamas. I looked at everyone celebrating at their lavish parties, and I only felt a profound sense of loneliness and desperation. Where was our exciting, glamorous living? Why couldn’t we have a seat at these parties?
A few years ago, I encountered a familiar Bible verse in a new way that changed me and my whole family. New Years was never the same after this verse. In Ephesians 2:6 we read that “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”
It struck me like falling mistletoe: I’m seated with Jesus. I’m at the Greatest Table with the Greatest King. We’re all here with Jesus, and it’s the best seat we could ever have.
As I pictured myself seated with Christ, I was overcome with adoration and a profound sense of belonging. I saw myself as royalty at the most exciting, glamorous seat in universe, and I worshiped Jesus again. I took my eyes off of myself and our family’s circumstances, and I rejoiced that I knew Jesus and was seated with Him. For the first time as a mother, I didn’t think a better life was happening somewhere else. I didn’t think my daughters were missing out on anything because we had what we most wanted and needed: Jesus Christ.
I read a few verses later how “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). I thought about our family and the “good works” prepared just for us. God ordained the life we were living, and this would look different from other families. No family was more important or special, more blessed or more exciting. Because we were all seated with Jesus, we could worship Him and enjoy the blessings He chose to give without comparison, inferiority, or jealousy.
A quote from the museum guide of the Hayden Planetarium helped my family understand the implications of being seated with Christ. The guide tells children, “All seats provide equal viewing of the universe.” As the children race in to the planetarium to find the best seat, the guide must tell them that there are no best seats in the planetarium. Wherever they sit they won’t miss anything because all seats are equal. I cried when I heard about this quote. I realized that when I’m seated with Christ, all seats provide equal access to the Father, and I won’t miss anything. There is no better seat for me.
As the holiday season came that next year, I giggled with joy to see all those adorable Nutcracker snowflakes and sugar plum fairies. I was so happy for those children and proud of all their hard work. When the Christmas cards rolled in, I praised Jesus for the good gifts he had doled out to different families. I delighted in the cookies that others could bake and the decorating gifts God had given to other mothers. And because I wasn’t living in insecurity, comparison, and jealousy, I had so much energy to bless families in my own way that was more about coffee, conversation, prayer, and writing than anything else.
The New Year means something different to us all now. It means another year to stay in our seats with Jesus and live the perfect life He has planned for us that includes blessing others and inviting them to take their seats with Jesus. We’ve stopped comparing our lives to others because no matter what’s happening, we know we have a seat at the Greatest Table with the Greatest King. Who would want to even think about any other seat?
Do you want to take your seat in the New Year? Read Heather’s journey in Seated With Christ: Living Freely in a Culture of Comparison. Heather Holleman, PhD, is a speaker, writer, and college instructor and serves on the staff of Faculty Commons with Cru. Heather lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and their two daughters. To learn more about Heather, visit her at heatherholleman.com.