FOMO & Faith

It is our joy to share a blog post from Charlotte Lueng:

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"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." - 1 Peter 5:6-8.

Of all the things I have and currently struggle with, I somehow did not anticipate fear of missing out being one of them.

Fear of missing out, or FOMO as it is so quaintly called, is defined by urbandictionary.com as "a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity or satisfying event, often aroused by posts seen on social media websites".

Several years ago, when I first heard this term and realized how social media was affecting my perspective on my own life, I made a conscious decision to not be envious of what people were posting on social media.  Instead of wishing to do things, I decided, I would simply go do them, channeling the wishful thinking energy into productive, let's make that happen energy.

The perhaps somewhat reckless way I approached life subsequent to that decision (with not a little help from Kevin DeYoung's book Just Do Something in later years) was great.  It took a long time to become accustomed to this new perspective, so the changes were slow and subtle, but looking back on the past few years makes me proud of my past self.  I made friends with everyone I could in college, something that had never been easy for me prior.  When I had enough of school (and enough credits), I graduated early just because there was nothing to stop me.  I landed a great first research job out of college, and then less than a year later threw caution to the wind and left it to pursue my dream of living in England.  In that year, I visited 8 other countries (getting lost in most), finished my master's degree, and made some amazing friends who despite being different from me on so many levels worship the same God, which I find truly incredible.  I moved back to San Diego (the city I never expected to live in again) to work, attend the church I thought I had left behind, and date the man I said I wouldn't.  We got married, and then made the painful decision to leave our church.  We've now made new friends and managed to maintain past friendships that we value, all while growing and learning and living life together.

Okay, that's great.  Now, where does the FOMO come in?

It, like so many of my discontentments in life, has its genesis in comparison.  While I was off gallivanting through Europe and meeting new people, life happened.  Not to say that life didn't happen to me as well, but it happened in different ways.  Friends met "normal" milestones in their personal and professional lives.  They got married, bought houses, have children.  The paradoxical cost of choosing to do something means you have chosen not to do something else, and I chose the more atypical.

Maybe it's because I feel like I've done so many things that I don't feel like I've missed out on events.  Instead, FOMO manifests itself in the form of regret, in things like career choices (even though I really like what I do now, is there something better?) or education choices (should I have gotten my PhD instead of just working?).  The decisions over which I feel like I should have had some modicum of control are the ones I question most.  I fear that my past self has made a decision somewhere along the line that inhibits my present self.

This fear is, of course, true.  Though it probably shouldn't be labeled as a fear so much as a fact.  Of course the decisions I made in the past have changed the present.  Of course I am different than I would be had I not done X, Y or Z.  It is foolish to think otherwise.  But I can't help but wonder, what would I be like had I chosen A, B, or C...?

Perhaps the FOMO that is most present on my mind is not so much the fear of missing out, but the fear of missing opportunities.  Jobs are uncertain, making future plans uncertain, which all culminates in making me crazy thinking the opportune time has passed and that we've somehow missed it.  But then I do things like starting to write this blog post and realise just how silly I'm being.

In my whole life, both the part that is determined to do and the part that thinks the window of opportunity has closed, God has never let me down.  He has always been and will always be sovereign over all decisions and all fallout of those decisions.  His timing is perfect, and that is when all things will happen.  I have no control over it, and that's likely for the best.  I don't have fear, I lack faith.

[Charlotte's story is not finished, our story isn't finished. What might the Lord do?]