The Single Word That Saved Me—and My Teens— From Jealousy and Comparison
One summer day in late July, I learned something about Jesus that changed nearly everything about me and my family, including my two teen daughters. I read in the book of Ephesians a single word that saved us from the jealousy and comparison that poisoned our lives.
I was the mom crying in a church bathroom out of jealousy when another mom shared about her lavish tropical vacation plans with her popular and well-dressed children. I considered our thrift-store wardrobe, our budget that kept us from vacations, and how my life looked nothing like the glamorous and wealthy one I dreamed of for myself. My daughters, I feared, would become like me as social media reminded them every day what they didn’t have: the clothes, the experiences, the endless parties, and the clout that says you’re finally somebody special. They’d never have that life. We lived in central Pennsylvania where our lives felt small and ordinary.
I sat reading Ephesians 2, completely unaware that God was about to send a lightening bolt of realization that would set me and my daughters free. I read this in verse 6: “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”
I noticed that little verb seated.
I noticed that it was a past-tense verb, meaning it’s something that’s already happened to us somehow because of our relationship with Jesus. Ephesians 2 told me I was now alive with Christ and saved by grace. But nobody ever used the word “seated” to tell me who I was. I closed my eyes and tried to picture it. I thought about this place where I’m seated with Christ—at the Greatest Table with the Greatest King. I pictured a grand table. I pictured this seat of honor I had with Jesus.
Then, the realization came: I didn’t live like I had a seat at the table. I lived like I was fighting for a seat at the table, any table, that I thought would finally make me happy and would bring the life I’ve always dreamed of. I knew those tables well. In fact, I’d been waiting for an invitation all my life to the seat with the rich, the beautiful, and the accomplished. And as I waited for those invitations, the bitter jealousy grew in my heart as I looked at everyone else’s perfect Instagram lives. As a result, I pushed our family into impossible schedules to achieve more, experience more, and try to win a seat at whatever table I thought would matter. But that day, it was as if the Holy Spirit said to me, “You can stop fighting for a seat at the table. You are already seated with Christ. Now start living like a seated person.”
But how would a seated person live? How would my life change if I truly believed I was at the best table already? As the months when on, I asked the Lord to teach me and my family about this elusive seat in the heavenly realms. As the new school year started, I sat in my office as I tried to write down my thoughts on this word “seated.” My oldest daughter crept up beside me. She had something she needed to talk about. For weeks, she complained that her stomach hurt and that she didn’t want to go to school. I noticed that her joyful spirit grew dim, and she retreated inside herself. Then, she spoke.
“Mom, I can’t find a seat in the lunchroom.” Her eyes filled with tears. She told me how her best friends—the ones from kindergarten who journeyed alongside her until middle school—announced that she was too awkward and not cool enough to sit at their table. My daughter now sat alone in the art room. I felt the old ache inside of me from all those places I also never sat. I remembered the rejection. I remembered the loneliness.
I pulled her up on my lap and told her about Ephesians 2. I shared how I was reading that Jesus chose us for His table and how she’s also seated there right now with Him. I told her that I knew it was hard to picture. But I said this: “Sarah, when you walk into that lunchroom tomorrow, don’t think about those popular girls anymore. You walk in there, and you say to yourself, ‘I’m seated with Jesus. I’m at His table.’ And then, you can go look for some other girls who need a place to sit. Go find them.”
Sarah, you are seated with Christ.
I could tell by the way her face lit up that Sarah understood. We talked about this seat with Jesus being like the knights at King Arthur’s famous Round Table. Everyone has a spot and a purpose; nobody is superior, and nobody is inferior—that’s why it was a round table. Sarah nodded. In fact, from that point onward, she was the girl who reminded me that I was seated with Christ. When I’d walk into parents’ night at school and see all those tables—the marathon runners, the community leaders, the gorgeous moms, and even the moms selling essential oils—I could never find my place. Sarah would whisper to me, “Mom! Hashtag Seated!”
As the years passed, our family grew in our understanding of our seated identity. We realized that in this seat in the heavenly realms, we have everything we need, all the time, because we’re with Jesus at the best table. And because the end of that portion in Ephesians tells us that we are “God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for [us] to do” (verse 10), we stopped comparing our accomplishments to everyone else’s. God knows the particular plans for us in our seat with Jesus. It won’t look like any other family. We even found a quote from the Hayden Planetarium Museum Guide that helps us when we begin to compare our seats or wish for a different life. The guide calls out, “All seats provide equal viewing of the universe.” I learned that when the children race into the planetarium on their field trips, they all fight for a seat in the front row; they want the best seat in an arena where there are no best seats. So the guide must reiterate, “Children! All seats provide equal viewing of the universe. No matter where you sit, you won’t miss any part of the show.”
All seats provide equal viewing of the universe. You’re not missing anything.
Here we sit in the same life we had before. Only now we know it’s the seat God chose for our lives. And because we’re with Jesus in the best seat, we no longer live in jealousy or comparison. In fact, when the time came for Sarah to choose her outfit for her senior photos before graduation this year, she carefully chose her favorite blue jeans and khaki jacket. But then she put on a necklace with a single word—the best word we’ve both come to know—inscribed on a golden bar: Seated.
For more, check out Heather Holleman’s Seated with Christ: Living Freely in a Culture of Comparison; this resource would make an excellent small group study for young women.