If there’s one thing we’re good at it’s this: comparing. Whether we like it or not, we make comparisons each and every day. Some comparisons are more innocent than others. You are going to have to decide which coat to wear depending on what the bipolar weather will be that day- Ohioans, you know what I mean. You are also going to have to compare your options when eating out with friends… “Do I go for the healthy salmon salad, or live recklessly and get the double bacon cheeseburger with seasoned fries?”
But it’s not these kinds of comparisons that get us in major trouble.
You know the kind I mean. We compare our outfits against the girl’s walking down the street. We compare the places in which we live. We compare the jobs we have, the significant others we may or may not have, the nail polish on our fingers, and the luster of our hair. I don’t know about you, but I know that when I catch myself in these kinds of comparisons, it is never accompanied by a feeling of peace. You may have once heard Teddy Roosevelt’s quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I, for one, could not agree more.
I am blessed to have an amazing group of friends. Some live here with me in the Columbus metro area and others are spread out around the country. Many of these great women are married. In fact, I would say 85% of them are.
As a single 24-year-old girl, my circumstances make it all too easy for me to slip into comparison mode. I don’t have as many shiny new appliances because I haven’t been able to sign up for a wedding registry. My apartment isn’t as cute. I’m not making as much with a single income. I don’t have fill-in-the-blank, and on and on it goes.
I’m not proud of these thoughts and how often they, and others, run through my head. But when I stop and think about what I am blessed with, I’m often left in awe and wonder of the ways my God has blessed me. I have a place to live with heat and air conditioning to be used in any season (see previous mention of Ohio’s ever-bipolar weather). I have a job with amazing benefits and a chance to further my career as an educator. I have friends who I know I can depend on for any and everything. I have an incredible family whose grace and mercy mirrors the same grace and mercy I receive each and every day from my Heavenly Father. And this is only the beginning.
In the Bible, there’s a story Jesus tells in Luke 18:9-14. This story is one of a tax collector and a Pharisee who went to the temple to pray. Long story short, the Pharisee stands there and prays to God, thanking God that he isn’t a sinner and that he tithes, and fasts, and is basically the best human being living on the earth. Meanwhile, the tax collector- a lonely, outcast sort of fellow- bows his head and repents for his sins, not even daring to lift his eyes. The tax collector doesn’t dare to look around. He looks down. Where are the Pharisee’s eyes? Looking everywhere around him. Comparing himself to the tax collector and other sinners. In verse 14, Jesus says, “I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
So often, I find my eyes looking everywhere around me. To my friends, my coworkers, the couple I just passed on the street. I constantly compare my emotions, my career, my relationship status, my outfit to those around me. Instead of allowing my gaze to wander, I want to fix my eyes on Jesus. The author and finisher and protector of our faith (Hebrews 12:12). My faith. My walk with God, not my neighbor’s. As humans, we feel that push to be better, look better, act better. What if instead of wanting to be better than someone else, we strive to be great? Great, not better. Somewhere in the King James Version of the Bible, Jesus says this, “What is that to thee? Follow thou me.”
Great. Not better.
***This post was inspired and driven by a sermon given by my ever-so-gifted pastor/uncle. You can find this message and other podcasts here.