Refusing to compete: a little testimony

Lately I've been thinking a lot about scarcity, competition, and freedom. When I was in college I heard this amazing sermon about the Old Testament characters Jonathan and David. Jonathan was the king's son in Israel, due to inherit the throne, but God anointed David to become king instead. The thrust of the sermon revolved around 1 Samuel 18:4 where Jonathan gives David his robe and sword, symbolically bowing out of his right to become king.
(Photo source)
The preacher used this Bible story to demonstrate a profound truth about life in God's kingdom: we are not in competition.

I've heard a lot of sermons in my life but that one was particularly formative for me. When John and I got married, we reflected on this truth and determined to not live in competition with the rest of the world. We wanted to live according to God's economy of abundance. We did not want to live into the lie of scarcity: the lie that there is only so much stuff/happiness/popularity/etc to go around and whoever gets the most, wins.

It can be a hard truth to live by, this idea that not having as much as so-and-so doesn't rob me of anything, but it is also incredibly freeing.

When we were engaged, John's white '98 Jetta gave out and he went looking for a new car. His dad, ever the conscientious consumer, counseled him to buy a reliable Toyota Corolla. So he did. In black. And we still drive it today. This winter we lost a hubcap somewhere in our travels and spent $60 to have it replaced. Much to our dismay, two weeks later, it was missing again. Neither of us could bring ourselves to replace it a second time, so we've been driving around with a missing hubcap for about 6 months.

It looks terrible, that wheel. It looks unfinished and ugly and the gross rusty metal is showing underneath. But you know what? We are just as happy with three hubcaps as we were when we had four.

Obviously there is nothing moral about the number of hubcaps a person has on their car, but when I realized that our joy levels had not been affected by our ugly wheel, I felt so encouraged. After reflecting on our hubcap situation for a while, I realized that God has been working an amazing spiritual transformation in our lives as we have refused to live as if life is a competition:

He is taking away the desire we have for more.

He is making us incredibly happy with the gifts we do have.

And he is redirecting our desires to reflect his will.

I don't know if I could have said all that even just two years ago. When we moved into our new house back then, I struggled greatly with the desire to perfect every room with paint, furniture, and decoration. Today, I appreciate what I have, I enjoy decorating,  and I still have dreams for household improvements, but thoughts about perfecting our home aren't the things that I want out of life.  Today my greatest desires are not to impress you with what I have, but to impress upon you the amazing reality of what Christ can do with a simple sinner like me.

Slowly, as I refuse to compete with my life, I am finding freedom- both freedom FROM the bondage of a better car, a nicer home, and greener grass and freedom TO live the full, blessed, and eternally satisfying life that God has for me. There is so much joy in surrender to Jesus.

I'm so grateful for that sermon I heard 7+ years ago. Just the other day one of you reminded me of these truths when you commented on a post about my infertility that another woman's pregnancy doesn't take anything away from me. Yes.  The thing in my life that is robbing me the most of my joy in Christ is my desire to be pregnant. I don't think that desire is wrong, but is it is wrong for me to be dissatisfied with what I have as I long for something else. I'm learning every day what it means to take off my robe and sword, and lay it down. 


  1. I think this is a lesson God is spreading around in abundance this year. Ian and I strive to live simple lives (financially speaking), not giving in to the temptations to have always newer, better, faster whatevers.....

    But even more than that, God has been teaching me to appreciate what I have right now. For example, 15 years ago, I lived on Vancouver Island. And I cursed the ferry every time I had to take it to and from the mainland. Well, this past year I went to the Island when I was in BC and I couldn't for the life of me, figure out what I was cursing about that boat. The views, the calming ride, the destination. What I wouldn't give to live on the island now and ride that ferry every week!!

    So it is with our infertility - I am *almost* at the point where I am thankful for the opportunities it has provided us with. A chance to pay down debts, so that when we have a child we will have the freedom to have one of us stay home. A chance to really connect and solidify our marriage through the struggle of IF. A chance to appreciate our childlessness, so that when we can no longer live our lives the way we want, and can no longer sleep in, soak in a nice hot bath, stay out late after work etc - we will be able to look back on this season and say we did childlessness well - we appreciated it for it's positives.

    I just thank God every day for where I am right now, not wishing I had something or was somewhere else. It makes life pretty easy! :)

  2. Anonymous8/23/2013

    You have no idea how much I needed to read these words tonight. Thank you for posting.

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  4. Jillian,
    :::I wrote a really long comment that got deleted...oops. Let's see if I can do this properly:::
    I work at a church in Alabama, along with my husband, and we've been "not NOT trying"(our gentle way of not getting people's hopes up when they ask--or our own hopes for that matter) to conceive for 3 years now. I cry through most of your posts. I get a lot of it. The pang of longing for a child. The disappointment of yet another period. The anger and subsequent guilt at finding out a friend or family member is pregnant (again). And i love your posts about your son, and how God is stretching you and teaching you through his tiny little awesomeness. I don't get that yet, but I hope to someday. But this post hit me differently than all the others. I am not exaggerating - God used you to put into words what He has been trying to teach me for three years. This post pointed a floodlight at my sinful heart - full of jealousy, selfishness, and a lack of faith.
    Its like I've been running a marathon when God has called me to just run through a field (my brain is imagining Phoebe from friends). I swear, repentance feels like a hot shower to me right now
    I feel the freedom to rejoice with those who rejoice. My heart is opened to more joy, more peace, more Yay.
    Praise Jesus for you.

  5. I really like this, it gave me a lot to think about. Thank you for sharing it.

  6. I really like this, it gave me a lot to think about. Thank you for sharing it!


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