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It’s Not Your Turn

“Why are we competing with people who aren’t competing with us?” By Heather Thompson Day
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In today’s culture, it’s a race to the top of the ladder. According to a 2019 Pew Research study, millennials are the most educated generation. No one does comparison quite like millennials—and Gen Z. (Like millennials, Gen Z grew up with the photo-centric Instagram app and built their identities online, contributing to the development of self and mental health.) We have apps for everything, and yet Yale University found people are happier and healthier the less time they spend online. We are the generation of hashtags and filters. Everything is created to project an image of who we want to be—which is never as we actually are. We try our hardest to be witty in 140 characters or less. We post photos of our nights out, and the scene is always way more intriguing than the night really was.

We have totally curated online lives that are almost nothing like what we live. We get dozens of comments and hundreds of likes, and it fuels our need to continue with the charade. Anything for a hit. If only our real lives felt as successful as our cropped ones. I can’t think of a single millennial friend who hasn’t had some type of struggle with either anxiety or depression. Not a single one. Which means though we may feel alone, we aren’t. There are probably thousands, if not millions, of us sitting right now feeling as though it’s never going to be our turn.

I think some of this is the reason we often feel unfulfilled. We want everyone around us to believe we have it all together— and we don’t. We fear everyone else is living the lives they post and we are the only imposters. And so, the race is on. The race to perfection. The race to instant success and gratification. The race toward fame, promotion and adoration. But what if life isn’t meant to be raced through? What if it’s meant to be lived?

We are always in competition with one another because we have constant access to each other. There was a time when you only competed with your neighbors over Christmas lights and tacky lawn ornaments. Now you can’t visit the restroom without seeing how much better than you 250 of your “closest” friends are. Newsfeeds are filled with all the awesome philanthropy, money and stardom your old college roommates have found. Then we look at our own lives and we feel like crap and so we talk crap. I can’t tell you how many group chats I’ve exited; friends screenshotting people’s posts to poke holes where we can. It makes us feel taller if we can assure ourselves others are small. And so we keep racing. We race to be better, smarter, happier, healthier and more successful.

A study in Psychological Medicine found “the prevalence of depression increased from 6.6 percent to 7.3 percent between the years 2005 and 2015 with an even greater increase (8.7 percent to 12.7 percent) among those ages 12 to 17.”

I have unfollowed people I couldn’t clap for. I remember that age-old adage, “If you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” The problem wasn’t them; it was me. If someone is milking their work with missions for IG likes, that’s on them. But the second I start a text thread scoffing, well, that’s on me. Why are we competing with people who aren’t competing with us?

I realized I hindered my own prayers by trying to block someone else’s blessing. My refusal to just shut up and clap wasn’t decreasing their success, but I do think it prevented mine. God isn’t as worried about changing your circumstances as He is with changing you. The best thing that ever happened to my faith was watching other people open packages I had ordered. I learned to smile from the bleachers, even though they wouldn’t have noticed if I had walked out. I had to accept it wasn’t my turn, but it didn’t mean mine wasn’t coming.

And so, I faked it. I started to say I was happy for them, even when I wasn’t. I would literally say over and over, “Heather, it’s not your turn.” And while something inside me started to die, something better was born. I started competing with myself rather than with others, and in so many ways, started to truly live my life again.

Maybe it’s not your turn right now. Maybe you’ve been overlooked and underappreciated. Maybe you have 10 bridesmaid dresses but no groom, or enough rejection letters for a bonfire. Maybe you can’t stomach another baby shower or type the word “congratulations” one more time. What do you do when everyone else gets the move, the relationship, the success and the accolades?

You show up anyway. At the end of the day, all we have in life is our integrity. Our followers won’t get us to heaven, and our success and riches can’t come into our caskets. However, a life lived intentionally can make ripples that continue long after you are gone. You can’t control your circumstances, but you can control how you show up to them. Suddenly, I realized obscurity was a really safe space to grow, and I could stretch further if no one were watching. If I lived each day walking toward my destination, how would that change the way I went through each step? What if some seasons are temporary, and we can make ourselves better in the waiting room? What if you don’t have to wait until it’s your turn to live like your turn is coming?

I woke up one day and realized who I am when it’s not my turn is more important than who I will be when it is. Anyone can stand on a stage for a crowded stadium. It takes conviction to get up when no one would have noticed if you walked out. I want you to get up. Not for them, but for you. Not to outdo your friend, but to outdo yourself. Now, I’m not saying that if you manifest hard enough, then all your wildest dreams will come true. Some people never get the wedding. Some writers never get the book. And some singers never see a stage. There is no magic wand for life that can put bows around all our broken pieces. But what if we commit to the journey anyway? What would happen to who we are as people if we committed to do the work in the dark with no guarantee of light? What if we don’t quit just because we’re tired? What if we don’t run to win, what if we run to learn? What if we do our best, not for raises, but to grow? Is it possible we can end up with something better than a happy ending someone else gave us? What if we finish our lives with a dignity we could only have given ourselves?

I want to be a real Christian who follows Jesus where He is headed, rather than one who tells Jesus to follow me where I am headed. That starts when it’s not my turn for accolades.

In fact, there’s no better place to start than when It’s Not Your Turn. 

For Further Study

Read:

  • It’s Not Your Turn by Heather Thompson Day shows us to what we can do to shape ourselves while waiting, so we are ready when it’s our turn. 

Adapted from “It’s Not Your Turn” by Heather Thompson Day. Copyright (c) 2021 by Heather Thompson Day. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

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Heather is associate professor of communication at Colorado Christian University and an interdenominational speaker and contributor for Religion News Service, Newsweek and the Barna Group. She runs an online community called I’m That Wife and is the author of several books, including her latest book is It’s Not Your Turn (June 2021).

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