I came home from work, gave my mom a kiss hello, headed to the basement, kicked off my heels, and flopped down on my pink bed in my pink room – the quintessential picture of someone torn between girlhood and adulthood.
I was 28 years old.
In the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to teenage angst, I called out to God, “My life tooooootaaaaalllllllyyyyyy suuuuuuucks! <sob> I just don’t know why-y-y-y-y! <hiccup>”
I’d moved with my parents to Minnesota about 11 months earlier, and it was getting rather old to have to follow the same rules as my 11-year-old brother while living with my parents.
“God, I hate it here!” I sobbed and grabbed another tissue.
I tried to figure out what I hated, and I couldn’t come up with anything. I had a job I loved, lived with my family who loved me, attended two churches and a separate Bible study, had a couple of friends, and knew the best reading spots in town.
Rochester, MN, where we were living, had a Barnes & Noble with a castle motif, an acceptable number of not-totally-lame coffee shops, and free-ish parking downtown. I had my own car, rent was cheap with my family, and I had even had a couple of friends come visit me in my new locale.
So of course, since I couldn’t figure out what really sucked, I decided that my marital status was the problem. “God, why haven’t you brought me a man yet? Never mind, I don’t want a Minnesotan. Get me out of Minnesota and then find me a man!”
In the depths of self-pity, I cried for a few more minutes, dried my eyes, and went up to dinner. That my mom had made. In the house I lived in for super cheap. While I made more money than everyone else in the house combined. And got to go shopping for clothes whenever I wanted.
And all I could think was, “I should have a boyfriend.”
Of course, the shallowness of that particular first-world problem was not lost on me, not even at the time. But I justified my angst because I was single. (Also because Minnesota is freaking COLD!)
Instead of taking my problems to the Scripture and figuring out what the Gospel has to say about angst and relationship status and first-world problems and self-pity, I took them with me everywhere I went, continually blaming (mostly) my singleness for the funk I was in.
But if I had taken my problems to the Bible, I would have found that Jesus wasn’t once sorry for Himself. Whenever He encountered people who were self-pitying, He held up Himself as the answer to their problems. Handicaps, relationship issues, health issues, loved ones possessed by evil spirits – He was the answer/solution/cure for all of it.
In fact, if anyone had the right in all of history to feel sorry for Himself, it was Jesus. He came to earth to live a perfect life (Hebrews 4:15) and save His people from their sins (Luke 19:10) and an eternity apart from God (John 11:25). Yet, He was born in a barn (Luke 2:7), exiled (Matthew 2:13), displaced (Matthew 4:13), homeless (Luke 9:58), rejected (Luke 4:29), and eventually killed for something that He didn’t even do (I Peter 2:24).
In further fact, He died for something I did. Something I do. Every time I take my eyes off of Jesus and put them on myself, and start feeling sorry that I’m not getting my way in my love life (or whatever part of my life), I’m essentially telling Jesus that He isn’t the answer/solution/cure. I’m telling Him as He hangs on the cross that His persecuted life and horrifyingly unimaginable death are not enough.
As Jesus hung on the cross, in the most inhumane, unjust act in all of history, He didn’t demand comfort or companionship or even His right to a fair trial. Jesus did not feel sorry for Himself. And in refusing to demand His rights or insist things be His way or solve His own problems, He paid for my sin of self-pity.
That thought is way more than enough for me to get my eyes off myself, off my relationship status, off the thermometer (-18 F is even a thing!?), and off my angst. When I let myself gaze at Jesus on the cross, sacrificing Himself because I’m selfish, the fact that I’m single doesn’t really matter much.
What I see at the cross is that God has a plan – an eternal, complete, GOOD plan – and that it involves only what will be good for me and glorifying to Him.
And all of the sudden, my relationship status is no longer a problem, or an issue, or even a thing. Jesus is everything.
I don’t know that I would go back and say anything to my angsty self if I could, because I don’t know if I would have listened to me. I’m just glad that Jesus is bigger than my angst.
And I’m glad I outgrew the pink bedroom. Teal is a much more grown-up color.