Ever since we returned to Minnesota from Africa for home assignment, my daughter has refused to keep socks or shoes on her feet. I carefully find a matching pair of socks, buckle her little shoes—and the instant I slide the door shut on our mini-van, she removes them. Every time we arrive at our destination, I have to do it again. At first I was not too worried, because I figured when it got cold enough she would be motivated to keep them on. However, it has already snowed three times, and she is still doing it. When my children do things that frustrate me, I often wonder if I do similar things in God’s eyes. So far the answer has always been “yes.”
I am old enough to know better by now; the weather of life has been cold enough that my feet should want to be shod. Nevertheless, I still have a destructive habit of comparing the worst of what I know of my private self to the best of what I know of other peoples’ public selves. My friends are more patient with their children. They know what they are going to make for supper before four o’clock and always have the right ingredients on hand. They bathe their kids more than twice a week and probably know whether or not they changed their underpants each day. Many of them not only clip coupons but even remember to take them out of their purse and use them at the checkout counter! In my mission community, they have more significant ministries than mine, more reason to be on the mission field than I have. I could tell myself that I am just being spiritual and am considering others better than myself, but the truth is that it is just insecurity, which is no better than pride. Both insecurity and pride are self-centered, and both see one’s value relative to other peoples’ value.
After I have compared myself unfavorably with my friends, I usually swing the pendulum the other direction and find some way to feel better about myself—comparatively, of course. This usually involves a case of “sour grapes,” or carefully selecting a comparison with someone who is weak in areas where I am strong. For example, the other day while shopping, I came upon some very cute greeting cards. I turned them over to see a picture of a smiling woman hugging her three smiling sons. She had created this card company in her “spare” time as a stay-at-home mom (I bet she knows what she is making for supper before four o’clock too). Well, big deal. Who even wants her own card company? I bet that fake so-and-so’s kids are going to grow up resenting that she was always so busy with her card company that she did not have time for them. Not my kids—I am always there for my kids (except for the times when I am doing e-mail or Facebook). I bet she is not a good listener, like I am. I did not even want those sour grapes anyway….
Unlike my daughter and her shoes, I do not do this ALL the time, but I am not alone, am I? (Just say no and make me feel better about myself!) If our friends appear to be doing well, we feel worse by comparison. If they are failing, we feel better—at least a little. That scriptural command that says rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn is not just a suggestion. One ugly thing about comparing ourselves to others, whether favorably or not, is that it becomes harder to celebrate with our friends when they are seemingly in a better spot than we are, or to be sad for them when they appear to be struggling.
If you are like me, stop playing “Mirror, Mirror on the wall…” The point is not whether or not we are the fairest in the land. It does not matter whether or not we compare favorably or unfavorably to those around us. It only matters that our identity is safely hidden in Christ. We might not have a menu plan or a glamorous ministry, but we are forgiven. How great is that?! If that does not excite us, then we really have forgotten who we are. We are sinners, saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. We are God’s daughters, with Christ’s record of perfect obedience and perfect righteousness. How can we share the good news of God’s grace if we do not love it and live it ourselves?
So keep your shoes on—it is cold outside!
© 2013 Thrive.
Questions to Consider: How can we share the good news of God’s grace if we do not love it and live it ourselves? What are practical ways you love and live out the good news of God’s grace where you live/serve?