My typical morning begins with a cup of coffee, a check of my phone for any new texts and then, if my self-control kicks in, I start my quiet time.
But IF I choose to respond to a text, then I am tempted to do more, like look at my calendar or e-mail or latest Redfin recommendation. I’ll read the catchy news headlines and get sucked into an article or two. I might indulge in a game of Boggle. Then, ignoring all conviction, I click on that glowing Instagram icon. With that awful sequence of decisions one day last week, I wasted close to 2 hours on my phone on various apps before I attempted to pick up my Bible. I felt so defeated and my day had just begun.
As I tried to journal, I was struck by how unhappy I felt. Though I enjoy seeing my friends living their best lives and posting about their adventures, I know it is simply the highlight reels that I am viewing on social media. I also know that the professional house pics on Redfin don’t show all the flaws of a particular property. And I know that before and after skincare ads are most definitely enhanced! But after an extended visit to everyone else’s greener grass, I feel empty.
This thought is the title of a rather clever song by Jonathon McReynolds. I hadn’t listened to it in quite a while, but these words screamed in my brain this particular morning. As I spent several hours looking at staged homes, my tennis teams and ratings, my friend’s lives and even a few social media ads that promise incredible skin or hair, I was comprising a list of comparison killers in my mind.
I don’t have a pool. I don’t have wrinkle-free skin. I don’t have luscious curls. I don’t have beach pics. I don’t have a cute dog or one that does tricks. I don’t have an Instagram account for my dog. I don’t have the highest daily score on this game…with every new app I opened, I added another checkmark to my column of “don’t haves.” I didn’t intend to form this list – it just happened. In that moment I realized that my inadvertent foray into comparison killed my joy. It also killed my gratitude for all that God has given me, and it killed my focus.
As I confessed my longings for temporary treasures, the Lord graciously reminded me of some powerful truths from the Psalms. Here are just a few of the verses that renewed my mind:
2I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”
5Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.
6The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. (Psalm 16:2,5-6)
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:5-6)
For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Psalm 84:11)
I know that the Lord is really the only one who can and will fully satisfy my longings. I know that He has thoroughly blessed me and my family. He has given me so many good gifts, and everything I need for life and godliness (see James 1:17 & 2 Peter 1:3) I also know that I cannot even begin to imagine how glorious our eternal home in heaven with Him will be like. And rereading these promises in the Psalms helped me to rewrite my list of “don’t haves” into an incredibly long list of “do haves”.
I also know that I will most likely fall into the comparison trap again. It’s hard not too as I am so dependent on my phone, my digital world, to keep me organized and up to date. But I am choosing to resume three practices. These are things I have done in the past at different times, but as I confessed I needed a better game plan to fight against temptation and remember the Lord’s goodness, the Holy Spirit led me to combine them:
1.) Pray before I get out of bed in the morning, when I first open my eyes and before I pick up my phone; just a simple prayer of gratitude and of expectation for all the Lord has planned for my day.
2.) Put my phone in a different room when I sit down to read my Bible and pray.
3.) Set the alarm on my phone for a consistent time every afternoon to remind myself to pause my activities and pray.
I recently had the privilege of attending the taping of a new Bible study by Kristi McClelland called the Gospel on the Ground; The Grit and Glory of the Early Church. While we were sworn to secrecy to not reveal the contents of that study yet, I do have to share a challenge that she gave to us: to pray daily at 9 AM and 3 PM. She explained that the incredible growth of the early church can be attributed to many of the unifying practices they observed, one of which was consistent prayer at specific times. Why these times? They were the traditional times of the morning and afternoon temple sacrifices. The early church community was strengthened and emboldened by the knowledge that all of their brothers and sisters were pausing at the same time to pray and seek God.
As she issued this challenge, my heart rejoiced in the concept, but my enthusiasm lasted about 3 days. By day four I had quit. To be honest I never set that 9 AM alarm because I usually had finished my quiet time around eight and figured my morning prayers were covered. I also soon learned that 3 PM afternoon alarm was sooo inconvenient! I didn’t want to stop what I was doing to pray. I am a momentum person, and I know if I stop doing something it will be a while before I get into groove of being productive again.
It took a few weeks, and a few more failed mornings of trying to battle temptation on my own to realize I had looked at this pause and pray idea completely wrong! What I viewed as an interruption God saw as a vital refocus! Hebrews 13:15 commands us to continually offer a sacrifice of praise. God calls it the fruit of our lips. When I compare the ease of just pausing and praising God to the ancient system of sacrifices with its complex rules and rituals, how can I not do this? And the beauty is if I don’t stop at exactly 3 PM, God is gracious. My sacrifice is acceptable to Him at any time.
To pause my day and pray causes me to take my eyes off of my phone and Look UP!
I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? 2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2)
Pray for me as I commit to following this very good game plan that the Holy Spirit gave me. I know that nothing I have or desire compares to what God has planned for me and for all who follow Him. I long for these practices to become so integrated into my life that looking up becomes my first response in every situation!
I would love to know what practices you engage in to remind you to Look UP. Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page. Also, please let me know how I can pray for you!