When we talk about temptation, we’re usually talking about vices.
My biggest temptation doesn’t look like anything obviously sinful.
It looks like an Instagram picture of a clean table (with no leftover jelly smears), a leather bound Bible, and a cup of coffee, with the caption, “Quiet time with Our Lord.”
My biggest temptation takes the form of a cozy, comfortable, easy, middle-class life.
Because I’ve only ever wanted two things: peace and security.
I want time to read, pray, and think without being interrupted twenty different times by three different people and a dog that can’t decide if she wants to stay in or go back out.
I want to be able to focus on whatever project I’m working on without mentally calculating our family budget in the back of my head at the same time, wondering what our long-term plan is going to be because this just isn’t sustainable.
I want to be able to focus on learning new things instead of being distracted by the mysterious trail of craft supplies one of the kids has left behind as they walked through the house.
I want to hang pretty curtains over my windows so I can watch them billow and think about Heaven. But curtains cost money. And I don’t know how to hang curtains. And I’d probably hurt myself if I tried. And the vertical blinds are fine, except somehow the kids splash juice across them every week, even when we don’t buy juice for months.
I want a floral tea set. I want to have the time and energy to use my floral tea set. I want to have friends who will come over and drink tea with me and admire the haircut that makes my frizzy hair cascade down my back in waves. I want to be able to pay for that haircut without feeling guilty.
I want to be the kind of person who buys salad and remembers to eat it instead of forgetting about it until she cleans out the fridge two years later and discovers a blob in the bottom drawer. I want to have the kind of life so devoid of distractions that I could be the kind of person who remember she bought salad.
I want a little office with built-in bookcases, a large desk, a comfortable leather chair, and a laptop that never crashes or tells me it can’t complete the Windows update. I want to be able to allocate eight hours a day to writing. And I want my office to be far enough away from the center of the house that I can get away with that. Maybe my office is a small cabin in the back yard. Maybe ivy is growing on it. Something real classy.
I want my furniture to look distressed because that was the look I was going for, not because it’s all hand-me-down furniture with broken off handles and warped drawers that may or may not open.
I don’t want bad things. I want boring things.
I covet things that aren’t for me, though.
That life isn’t for me.
Maybe one day I’ll have some nice curtains, but not now. Now is the time to have dirty blinds and experience a million interruptions while spending an entire week trying to write just 500 words. Now is the time for used furniture and not having enough space in the house.
Now is the time when I have to go hide somewhere so I can pray without anyone ambushing me. Kind of like the early Christians who hid in the catacombs, except it’s a bathroom. And nobody’s going to kill me. They just want some cookies.
Now is the time when trying to sit down and read the Bible in the morning, and having the luxury of reflecting on it, is a pipe dream.
Now is the time when those extra 15 minutes of sleep in the morning are more important than waking up early to get that quiet time. Because my physical health is more important right now. Because I know without those extra 15 minutes, I’ll be down with a migraine the rest of the day. And I can’t pray or read the Bible when I’m unconscious.
Now is the time to accept the reality that my life doesn’t look like the idealized version in my head.
There are no lazy days for reflection right now.
Those days go to catching up on the dishes.
Or to talking to a kid about what happened in school today.
Or to talking to a friend who needs to get something off their chest.
Now is the time to write while distracted.
Now is the time to follow what I’m called to do, despite how imperfect my surroundings are.
Maybe I’m cultivating patience.
I’m sure as hell cultivating humility.
I want peace and security, but that’s not what following Jesus looks like. I can’t want those things more than I want to follow him.
Giving into temptation for me would mean I stop working. Put it off until everything around me is a little less chaotic. Stop until it’s not so hard. Don’t stick my neck out unless my situation is secure. Don’t take any risks.
And that’s when I understand how important it is that I’m right where I am.
Because what I’m called to do involves taking risks. But the thing is, when you don’t really have anything, what’s the risk?
I don’t have much to lose.
And that’s freedom.
If I were still working in a field that paid me well, sure, I could afford those nice curtains and furniture. I could buy a bigger house, with a basement where all the clutter could live.
But at what cost? At the cost of my voice.
I wouldn’t write about the things I write about if I had a professional reputation to worry about.
The things that tempt me most would also silence me.
Right now, I’m poor. I’m distracted. I’m in pain.
And that means I’m free.