If you’re a female, I hope at some point in your life you have had someone challenge you not to compare yourself to other women – especially in a way that tears you down or causes you to feel superior to others. Growing up in the church, as a young woman I heard it every other week it seemed. And it’s a great message, applicable in almost every category of life, and often a culprit when we find envy, anxiety, or pride bubble up in our hearts.
Comparison is a heart habit I’ve spent a great deal of my life beating down. The circumstances were different – beauty, brains, capability, athleticism, personality, confidence – and the people encouraging me away from it range from peers to mentors. Today, to a good friend, I said, ‘you’d think I’ve have it handled it by now.’
Lately, comparison isn’t handicapping me in relation to appearance or hobbies, but in loving God.
Like many I’m sure who will read this, my insides are whirring with feelings, doubts, ideas, desires, and Truth. Things we want to do, ways we wish we were doing better, sin we’re burying (or trying to battle), worries about circumstances, wondering if we’re on God’s path, etc. Right? Comparison has stolen a good bit of freedom and joy in God from me lately because I’m believing my loving Him must look the same as someone else, or even as it looked for me 2 years ago.
The same friend from earlier shared a story of a conversation between she and her son. He was basically saying the 10 commandments was a lot to keep up with and remember. She encouraged him with the two greatest commandments Jesus gives us, where “all the Law and the Prophets hang on” them:
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
His words: this is the first and greatest commandment.
Not a particular Bible-reading method, or copying another’s habit of prayer, or being able to teach a class on the book of Exodus, or going to a popular exercise class, or never watching Netflix, or not reading as much as I used to because my schedule is more full, or attending every ministry activity no matter how tired you are.
Okay, so those are random, particular, possibly extreme examples. But I think Holy Spirit is prompting me to consider the why more important than the what or the how.
Comparison will take a friend’s story about how she felt the presence of God while she tended to her children and distort the gratitude I could feel into insecurity that maybe my faith isn’t strong enough.
Comparison will take someone’s Biblical encouragement or teaching and distort the excitement over Scripture I could feel into guilt I’m not studying it enough.
Comparison will take a pastor or author I admire sharing the peace and confidence they have in God and distort the joy in God I could feel into shame for not being as disciplined or mature or strong as they are.
I could continue writing scenarios, right? Maybe some come to your mind. I am in the middle of this, and I think it boils down to one thing — Jesus’ first and greatest commandment to me, to us, is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. My heart, soul, and mind are continuously changing — prompted by unexpected circumstances, tempted by sin, renewed by the Bible, challenged by Holy Spirit. My loving God can look different, from year to year, or month to month, and from everyone else, but it’s the loving Him with all that I am that matters.
When my faith is weak or strong, when I’m tired and only want to numb with distractions, when I’m full and pouring myself out, when I’m happy in Him and when I’m prone to wander… love God. What am I saying to Him? How am I loving Him? How am I showing Him I genuinely like Him? How often am I thanking Him? What is He seeing in me?
At first blush, maybe considering the why more important than the what or how looks like this…
In the morning before I get out of bed, and all throughout the day, telling my Father I love Him, and asking for the help and heart to love Him even more, no matter how it looks or what I’m doing.
A recent article by Scott Hubbard had two statements I consider profound:
You may lose yourself when you give yourself up to Christ, but only those parts of yourself that deserve to be lost.
We begin to discover that we become most us when we forget about ourselves and become consumed with him. We will discover that we are happiest when we care least about how unique we are, or what sort of personality we have. We would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God, gazing upon his face, than hold a mirror to our own in the tents of wickedness (Psalm 84:10).
Comparing my how and my what to others conditions my eyes to fix on them or myself, and hardly ever on God. In my experience, comparison fuels self-reliance by putting on unnecessary not-from-God pressure to always do more and be better. Comparison handicaps the practice of allowing God to inform our being and our life, and puts in its place our own understanding, paving the road for habits that don’t prompt worship of God like pride, doubt, or insecurity.
So.. what if for a little while things were simpler? If my greatest life is found in loving God and people, then whenever the ‘how’ or ‘what’ changes and shifts, there will be grace upon grace, because I’ll be met with His love all. the. time. He is enough. He is worth it. He ultimately satisfies.
His kingdom come. His will be done. On earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:10).
How might the habit of comparing be influencing your relationship with others or with God?
(P.S. Photo explanation: My husband works in the timber industry. Nice tag, Georgia Forestry Association. I like it.)