What I Gather About Comparison

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I have heard this quote numerous times throughout my life and hadn’t really considered it until fairly recently.  During a trip to Cuba, my husband preached a message about comparing ourselves with one another based on 2 Corinthians 10.  It was such an eye-opening sermon.  I realize now that this is an area of weakness for me.

I am competitive, goal-oriented and persistent.  I tell myself that I have a realistic perception of my strengths and weaknesses (doesn’t everybody?).  Basically, I want to be the best, and I know when I’m not.  I find myself comparing Rachael to the kind of people who I am sure you would find amusing.  Let me just give you some examples.

Funny Rachael

I am not funny and I know this.  Yet, somehow I have this idea in the back of my head that buried somewhere deep down is a comedian, that I SHOULD be funny.I have a handful of friends who should be comedians by profession.  On that rare occasion when I make any of those friends laugh, I am caught so off guard that I literally have to take a moment, rewind, and figure out WHAT IN THE WORLD JUST HAPPENED?  I am no comedian, but there are times I want to be like those people who are.

Singer Rachael

I’ve been singing since I was old enough to carry a microphone and carry a tune.  School concerts, college choirs, solos at church, camps, conferences, in my car, in my kitchen.  You name it.  I love it and I realize I have a decent voice.  But let me assure you, I am my own worst critic.  Instead of comparing myself to the worship leader down the road, I compare myself to Mariah Carey.  Or Kari Jobe.  Or any other professional out there who is better than me.

Mom Rachael

I frequently compare myself to those moms who get up at 5 a.m. just to prepare a hearty breakfast for their kids and have a 30 minute devotion before school.  I compare myself to crafty mom, home-school mom, patient mom, mom of 5, athletic mom, chef mom, spiritual giant mom, birthday party mom… you name the type, at times I think I should be all of those moms wrapped into one package.

Writer Rachael

I have always enjoyed writing.  I excelled in writing sociological papers in college, probably because my writing is so straight-forward and lacks flourish.  Yet when I sit down with a Barbara Kingsolver book, I want to weep at my moron-self, incapable of painting a vivid picture with the most beautiful strand of words.  When I read the poetic Sarah Bessey, I want to give up on blogging all together.  When I read David Platt, I grieve that I can’t express my passion the way he does.  Give up, I say.

Spiritual Rachael

My Dad wrote me a letter before he died.  In it, he named a few women who are spiritual giants of the faith.  He told me to be one of those women.  I know his intentions were good, and I must say that his life and ministry lit a fire in me that has never died.  Yet often I compare myself to these women… the women who travel the country speaking at conferences.  I compare myself to the missionary you hear about who prayed and saw someone raised from the dead.  I compare myself to the women who get up to pray and study every morning without fail.

Physical Rachael

I would love to report to you, dear reader, that I am above this type of comparison.  While I have improved greatly, I still find myself looking in the mirror some days, unhappy with everything I see.  Frizzy hair, freckles, 25 extra pounds, flat nose, crooked teeth, boring clothes.  I see those women who weigh nothing running down the street in their workout clothes and kick myself for not having more discipline.  I get on the scale, hoping to have lost just one more pound so I can look just a little more like the images that bombard my mind of the “perfect woman.”

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Even now, writing all of this so honestly, so openly, saddens me greatly.  I think Teddy Roosevelt was onto something.  What possible chance do I have at joy when I compare myself to someone who IS NOT ME?  After all, I can never be anyone other than the person God made me.  Sure, I can grow, set goals and reach them, push myself, have more discipline… but at the end of the day I am Rachael.  I’m pretty sure Rachael needs to shut up and stop listening to what Rachael says about Rachael.  Rachael needs to start listening to what God says about her.  What might that be?  I love what David had to say about God’s view of him:

You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.  How precious to me are your thoughts, O God. (From Psalms 139)

I am his creation.  He delights in me.  He saw enough value in me to pay the ultimate price…. just so I could know him.  He calls me friend.  He wants to walk with me, faults and all, in the cool of the day.  He knows my name.  He has the hairs on my head numbered.  He loves me just as I am.

And who are these people I’m comparing myself to, anyway?  Do I truly know any of them?  I guarantee that if I got to know them, I would realize that each and every one of them has struggles and shortcomings just like I do.  Do we realize that when we compare ourselves to someone, we are comparing ourselves to an idolized persona?  We are comparing ourselves to the voice, not the human.  We are comparing ourselves to the body, not that heart.  We are comparing ourselves to the works, not the soul.  We compare ourselves to some kind of facade.  We are trying to become more like someone rather than becoming more of ourselves in Christ Jesus.  He is the one we look to for the answers to who we are and who we are to become.  I want to be wrapped up, tied up and tangled up in Jesus, joyfully drawing strength and self-worth from the fact that I am loved by the King.

Do you struggle with comparison?  Does comparison rob you of your joy?  In what areas of your life do you find yourself comparing?  Please speak up so I know I’m not alone!

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Gathering Delight

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Bedtime. Let me set the scene for you.  Dinner is over.  Hopefully dishes are done.  There may or may not have been arguments about a certain 9-year-old practicing violin.  There may or may not have been screaming about a certain 3-year-old not wanting to get out of the bath.  Homework is done, sometimes after much complaining.  Mom is tired.  Dad just wants to sit down.  After bathroom trips, teeth-brushing, picking out clothes for the next day, another bathroom trip, and searching for the perfect stuffed animal or book for the night, we tuck them in, say prayers or play our thank-you-God game, and lights are out.  Okay, okay.  There may or may not be a threat about what will happen if either of those girls gets up.

Currently Isabel is in a stage where she is testing my bedtime limits.  She shares a room with Ava, so many nights she keeps Ava up for an hour or more.  She sings, talks, gets up, hits Ava, tickles Ava, climbs into bed with Ava.  Now that she is potty-trained, she comes in our room, having to go potty.  Again.  She slams the closet door, plays with her toys.  She makes messes, then opens and closes her bedroom door just to see if we are outside.  She.  Tests.  My.  Patience.

Ava knows that Mom has enough drama at bedtime and is usually pretty good about staying in her bed.  She knows getting out of bed means grounding from her Kindle.

I hope I have set the stage adequately for the happenings of Thursday night past.  This particular night we tried to get the girls in bed early because Ava had ISTEP testing the next morning.  I had told Ava that the next day I would not be home when she got off the bus and she would walk to Tasha’s house.  She was nervous about it, but we talked it though.  Tasha’s house is only a block or two away and Ava walks and rides her bike there from time to time.

About 30 minutes later, Ava was in our room.  I didn’t look up.  I didn’t want to lose my temper or get into a discussion.  It had been settled.  Ava would go to Tasha’s.  Jimmie walked her back in her room and was in there for a long time.  When he came back in our room, the discussion went something like this.

Jimmie:  Ava is sobbing.  She wants to see you.  She is nervous about tomorrow.

Rachael:  She has walked to her house before.  She goes to Kristi’s house, that is even farther.  She is being dramatic.

Jimmie:  She said she had a dream that someone kidnapped her by the park.  She is scared.

Rachael: (still relatively unmoved) Jimmie, she is just looking for reasons not to go to sleep.  This isn’t a big deal at all.

Jimmie:  RACHAEL, YOUR DAUGHTER IS IN HER BEDROOM.  SOBBING.  TERRIFIED.  SHE WANTS TO TALK TO HER MOM.

I believe that often when Jimmie raises his voice, it is the Holy Spirit speaking through him.

I walk into the room.  My baby is looking up at me, tears streaming down her face.  She reaches up, wraps her arms around me and holds on for dear life.  She is scared.  I finally come to my senses.  I speak soothing words.  I make other arrangements.  We make up.  I hold her, hug her.  I speak of Jesus as our protector.  I speak of fear and how it has no place in us when we know Jesus.  I pray over her.  I stroke her hair and watch her in wonder as she sleeps easily, comforted by my words and her Jesus.  I am so overwhelmed with love for this child, I think I may burst.

I hear the voice, somewhere deep inside, speaking truth I have avoided.  This is your child.  Take delight in her.  She is wondrous.  She is not an inconvenience, she is a delight.  Find joy in her.  Speak gently.  Show her grace.  Be a soft place to fall.  I delight in you, my child.  Now delight in her.  Your child.

I don’t know when it happened.  I always have moments of delight in Ava.  She is so smart and confident.  She is caring and strong.  She leads, she loves.  She has PASSION.  My head knows this, but for a while now I have been so consumed with myself, my problems  and my struggles that my heart wasn’t in it.  It may have been that way for a week.  Maybe a month.  I pray it wasn’t longer than that.  I was so grateful that God woke me up Thursday past.  It is easy for me to take delight in the 3-year-old who hugs mama all the time, says the cutest things, cuddles and kisses.  I thank Jesus that He reminded me that I must wonder at Ava.  She is a glorious gift.  If I look, I can see Jesus in her.  I can see the beauty of creation.  I can see His love in the way she loves.  I am delighting in her again.

He delights in me, after all.  The Bible tells me so.  Even when I fall terribly short as a mom.  Even though I am willful and resistant to His prompting.  Even if I get up when I’m supposed to stay put.  Even though I make messes.  Even if I pretend I need something when He has given me everything I need to rest.  Even when I talk when He wants me to be quiet and still.  Even if I slam doors He has opened so I can see the light.  Even if I annoy and hinder my brothers and sisters on this journey with me.  Even if I’m afraid when there is nothing to fear.  Even if I cry even though He has assured me everything will be okay.  In spite of myself, He delights in me after all.

Do you delight in your children?  Do you ever consider that God takes delight in you?  What obstacles keep you from delighting in your children?  I would love to hear that I’m not alone in this struggle!  This wasn’t a mom-moment I am proud of, but I thank God for the lesson that followed.

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