Look Inside First

Several years ago, in Jackson, Tennessee, on a particularly humid August afternoon, I found myself at a civic/community club meeting. I arrived a little bit late and sat in the back with an acquaintance of mine. We exchanged pleasantries and she told me that she had just become a sales consultant for a national multi-level marketing business who sold kitchen products. I will not use the name of the business, but I’d bet every house in your neighborhood has some of their products. After the meeting, several other ladies gathered around while my friend told them about some new gadgets and a kitchen tool that was literally “the best thing since sliced bread.”  (I think she really used those words.) As I talked to a few other people in the room, I couldn’t help but catch bits and pieces of my friend’s sales pitch. She said you could bake cakes AND brown ground beef in this thing!  Back and forth I went from business contacts to the gadget conversation, with my ears hooked on phrases like “saves time” and “easy to clean.”  I didn’t even get the name of the thing, but it could brown ground beef in the microwave without scorching it. Could it be true?  Could this be the be-all-end-all kitchen product I had been waiting for all these years? HALLELUJAH! Sign me up!

Now, keep in mind that this was a time in my life when I was overwhelmed to say the least. I had just had my second child, who had chronic ear infections the first 8 months of life. I was sleeping for a couple of hours at a time in the night.  I worked full time. I taught collegiate level Commercial Law class. I was involved in church, community, and just about everywhere else. On paper, I must have looked like Wonder Woman. Inside I felt like her ugly, chubby, incapable, anxious, non-lasso yielding cousin, Blunder Woman. I felt like a failure or at least sub-par in almost all areas of my life. I wasn’t a great wife. I wasn’t a great friend. I wasn’t a great mom. I wasn’t a great teacher or a great anything. The stress of life kept me dangling on a delicate string. I could snap at any moment.  I was stretched too thin and had too much going on, so is it any wonder that I pounced on the opportunity to have a kitchen gadget that at least sped up the time it took to thaw frozen ground beef? No. (I was also not great at resisting impulse purchases.)

I happily wrote the check for the gadget, plus all the shipping fees, and handed it to my friend. Delivery would be in ten days. I went home, resumed my whirlwind lifestyle, and waited patiently. Actually, that’s not entirely true   I waited like a kid before Christmas. I waited like Ralphie on A Christmas Story waited for his Orphan Annie Decoder Ring. I just knew that this little do-hickey was going to revolutionize my kitchen and turn me into the domestic goddess I had always wanted to be. I just knew it!  No longer would we have a messy and disorganized kitchen!  No longer would I fret over supper!  No longer would I say, “Let’s just order a pizza.”  No, never again. This gadget, I was convinced, would save me. It was the thing that would get me back on track, the thing that would propel me to excellence in at least one category of my life, the thing that might just save my sanity.

Ten days of anticipation passed, and the time came to get my new gadget. I arranged to meet my friend and pick up this culinary wonder. I met her at her office and she handed me the bag. Like a raccoon that has found a ball of tin foil, I rushed to my car and opened the package with a child-like anticipation. I pulled it out and immediately burst into laughter. That’s right. I sat in my car and I laughed for almost five minutes straight. Somewhere in there, I shed a few tears, but mostly I just sat and laughed.

I bet you’re confused. You should be. Why was I laughing?  Well, here’s the deal. The wonder-gadget I had hung my entire domestic goddess future upon, was something that I not only had one of already, but I actually had two. At home.  In my cabinet. I had received them as wedding gifts years ago. I had used them a few times, even. The thing I had wanted to change my life was something I already had. The thing I had desired and anticipated and had paid money for was something that I not only had, but I had TWO of them. Yeah – Such is life.

Isn’t that just like us?  Isn’t that the story of so many wasted days of my life?  I have pined and striven for things that were already inside of me. I have struggled to be strong or happy or thin or smart. I have desired success and happiness without even realizing that I already had those. I have wasted countless hours comparing myself to other people and their successes, their advanced degrees, their capabilities. I have desired to be loved and to be accepted and to be wanted. Guess what?  I already have all those things.

Isn’t it just like human nature to completely dismiss the amazing strengths we already have?  Isn’t it like us to take for granted the talents and the blessings that we already possess and to fix our eyes, our time, and our hearts on something we feel will give us everything or solve all our problems?  Why do you think the diet pill industry is booming?  We all want an easy pill to make us skinny and guess what?  Even if the pill worked and you became skinny in two weeks, your problems aren’t gone. Why do you think the plastic surgery industry is booming?  People who start with a simple tummy tuck are exponentially more likely to come in for more surgery. Do you know why?  For some, it’s because they are trying to become what they think they need to be, so they can be happy. They can’t stop at a toned tummy. Once you start focusing on your flaws, NOTHING about you seems ok.  I have news: a perfect chin and a perfect body won’t make you happy – just ask any of the miserable starlets in Hollywood. A perfect physique won’t keep your husband from straying – just ask Halle Berry or Eva Longoria. Our happiness doesn’t rely on our dress size or our bench press. The most rewarding things in life cannot be bought in a gym or a surgeon’s office.

We all do that. We pin our happiness in places where we won’t find it. For true satisfaction and peace, we must look in what is often the last place – inside ourselves. Whatever you want and whatever you desire is already inside you. It may be a big glaring piece of you, or it may just be a tiny spark that just needs some attention, but whatever you need or desire, I bet you already have.

If you take the time to stop comparing yourself to other people and start accepting yourself as you are, you will find strength and love that you never knew before. You will be at peace with yourself, which will in turn lead to peace with others. If you stop looking for that one “BIG THING” and realize that maybe your “BIG THING” is really all those little things you think aren’t a big deal, you will find contentment. If you stop always looking down the road and take the time to enjoy the rest stops or the roadblocks along the way, you will appreciate life and discover new ways to enjoy life’s uncertain paths.

In a spiritual application, so many of us look everywhere but the one place we should look for contentment and satisfaction. We seek happiness in money or success. We seek contentment in possessions or status. We seek to finally have it all, only to realize that when you have a few dedicated friends, a worthy calling, the love of a devoted spouse, the admiration of a precious child, or most importantly, the unconditional love of Jesus Christ, you already have it all. We spend our days fighting when the battle has already been won. We spend our time reading self-help books and trying to mold ourselves into new people. I’m all for self-analysis and for studying psychology, but some things just boil down to our need to get back in the Bible – the best self-help book of all time. We spend our time trying to become what the world wants us to be, when God gave us the mind, the heart, the body, and the tools to be what HE wants us to be. We wear ourselves thin, struggling to find that which we already possess, only to realize later in life, as King Solomon did, that it’s all worthless.

I want you to know that you already have everything you need, to be where you need to be. No matter what has happened and no matter who you are, you have everything you need to be whole, to be your authentic self, and to be who you were made to be. Stop looking outside and chasing counterfeit promises and ephemeral dreams. Look inside yourself and use the tools you have been given. You might just find that the things you’ve been searching for have been right in front of you the whole time.  You just might find that the thing you thought would change your life is something you already owned. You might find that there’s no magic pill and no way around working hard. You might find that the things you thought you wanted aren’t so attractive after all. You just might find that the solution for your struggles and problems is already inside you.

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