This picture is the best depiction of my confused and scattered state from keeping up with the Joneses. I never thought I’d be keeping up. It wasn’t a materialist kind of keeping up, but still superficial and just a tad hypocritical for a woman who calls herself a follower of Jesus Christ. Yuck :(.
It began with a desire to improve as a writer and progressed to me building a platform for such writing. If you want to make a name for yourself in the world of writers, it’s what you do. You build. And you do what it takes to get your name out there among the myriad of writers. You work to get followers and subscribers because they are the ones who will supposedly get you where you want to be. Known. Successful. Published.
There’s a story in the Bible which parallels mine. The book of Genesis, chapter 11 tells about a people who were building the tower of Babel high into the sky to make a name for themselves. They used their own methods and materials thinking it would make them famous. Because of their pride, God confused them by giving a different language to each one. Consequently, they became confused and scattered. Not able to understand one another, they stopped building.
This was where I found myself, in trying to keep up with the Joneses. I became confused about the purpose of my writing. My thoughts and ideas were scattered because I stopped listening to God and began mimmicking people.
It started when I joined a faith-based writing community in 2016 to sharpen my craft. I wanted to be more effective at communicating the lessons I had learned from God to encourage others. The resources were helpful and my writing did improve. But, I felt constant pressure to apply what I was learning in order to keep up with other writers. I feared missing out on opportunities to make it as a writer if I wasn’t putting every learned skill to use.
I succumbed to “social” pressure and began building a name for myself. I became more interested in attaining followers than in following God. Like a robot I stopped using my brain, and began copying the patterns of people, working exhaustively to keep up with the Joneses of the writing world. As a result, I got confused and scattered about what and why I was building.
Pressure. Pressure. Pressure. The pressure to succeed as a writer was my driving force. I was overwhelmed with information overload. In the past, I just wanted to write for God. I was passionate about sharing words of encouragement and hope. In keeping up with the Joneses, I forgot my purpose for writing.
I exhausted efforts trying to write as often as I could. I convinced myself I was doing it for God. In reality, I was doing it for myself. And the worst part is, I neglected my family in the process. I’ve missed out on quality and quantity time with my guys. Time I will never, ever get back.
God had been nudging me to stop. Unfortunately, I ignored him and forged ahead with my own plans. And He let me be for a while. But not without consequence.
I got more and more pressed for time every day. I couldn’t focus on any task at hand. I’d be thinking about the next thing I wanted to do while half-heartedly doing what was required of me in the present moment. I felt trapped into doing the same thing I had always done because I had invested so much time into building my writing. At the time, my passion to write felt more like a curse than a gift. But, shifting gears and changing methods meant wasted time and effort. And even worse, it felt like I was giving up.
About mid-December 2017, I finally stopped to consider where I was headed. Do I want to continue on the road of distress and discontent? Or, do I want to stop building myself and let God build me.
So, I gave myself permission to give up. But I didn’t give up on writing or on building my skills. I just gave up my plans, my ideas, and my ways in exchanged for God’s plans, his wisdom and his ways. Oh, and I gave up the subtle ways I had been working to keep up with the Joneses too.
You see, the fear of missing out on making it as a writer had me hyper-focusing on what other writers were doing. I pressured myself to constantly produce in order to keep up. When I wasn’t writing, I was thinking about what I should be writing. It was an exhausting way to live and I’m glad God put some sense into me to stop before I fell apart completely. Since then, I’m learning that there are times when giving up is better than continuing in the same wrong direction and creating even more waste.
Once I let God lead, I haven’t felt the need or have the desire to keep up with other writers. He has taken away my fear of missing out and given me his peace. My love of writing and my passion to encourage the hurting has returned. I trust God will use the words he inspires me to write however, whenever, wherever, and in whatever capacity he chooses. Even if I never get hundreds or thousands of followers and likes, I’ll still write. Because God has put words in me to encourage, and doing so gives me the satisfaction of a life lived with purpose.
No more burning the candle at both ends trying to write when my body needs rest. I’ve eliminated distractions by intentionally becoming a social media misfit. This removes the temptation for me to compare and keep up with what others are doing. I’ve been able to give full attention to my boys during school time and I’m not distracted from my family during mealtime because I’m choosing not to keep up with other writers. I get outside more, to play and enjoy God’s world, instead of burying behind my computer every spare moment. The trade-offs are a no-brainer. For what does it matter if I gain followers and fame, but lose joy and satisfaction in the process, because I’ve neglected my God and the family he has given me to love and enjoy?
Dear ones, there is no need to keep up with the Joneses in any area of your life. Romans 11:29 says, God’s gifts and calling for you are irrevocable. No one and nothing can take away what He has made you to do. Ecclesiastes 3:11 is our reminder that in His time, God will make us and our work beautiful as we continue to follow his lead. He promises to be our light and shield; showing favor and honor to us as we do life his way (Psalm 84:11). And this my friends, is why we do not need to keep up with the Joneses!