Comparisons Keep Me Spinning
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Romans 12:3
I don't struggle too much with thinking more highly of myself than I ought, but I do struggle with thinking more lowly of myself than I ought. I have spent a lifetime playing the comparison game. From my perspective there is always someone prettier, smarter, younger, thinner, more creative, better equipped, wealthier, more athletic, or just plain more put together than me. The list is endless. The game never ends and I never seem to win. It's like the playground merry-go-around that spins and spins whispering "I wish. I wish. I wish."
Romans 12:3-7 paints a picture of relationships free from comparison. Paul states each one is to "think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned." Did you catch it? After stating we are not to be haughty, he says we are to think with sober judgment. Being sober means that I am to be level headed, clear sighted, steady, not ruffled, swayed or clouded by emotion. Comparisons cloud my vision. Comparisons keep me from seeing what God sees. When I compare myself to others, I create an inequality. I set myself on one side of the equation and my friends on the other, thus limiting my outcome to three basic solutions, greater than, less than, or equal to.
But, Paul says in Romans 12: 6-7 "For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function...Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them." Where I only see three solutions, God sees infinite possibilities. Each one of us has something special to offer and we need to share it. My "it" may not be your "it" but they are both valuable and are meant to be used. I need to learn to value, cherish and use the gifts that God has given me. The people placed in my life are not there to be used as measuring sticks for my self-perceived worth. I am not meant to be in competition with those around me. I am meant to be in community with them. We are all pieces in God's jigsaw puzzle and the puzzle is only complete when the right pieces are connected in the correct places.
I want to see myself the way you see me. I want to know my worth is grounded in you. I want off the comparison merry-go-round. I praise you for the wonderfully gifted women you have placed in this group. May each one know she is special, loved, and gifted. May we all use our gifts to help each other and bring you glory.
"This Doesn't Leave This Table ..."
Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. Proverbs 17:9
I couldn't have asked for a better opening. The moment was ripe and ready for picking like a plump piece of fruit hanging low on a tree branch. I just had to reach up and take it. It hung in the air like a soft lob in tennis waiting for the downward slice of my racket.
Sitting outside under the green umbrella at Starbucks she asked, "Did you hear about....?" Of course I had heard and I was dying to "talk" about it, but I just hadn't been given the opportunity to do so-yet. I was dying to share my portion of the gossip buffet. I had one more nugget of "truth" to add to the growing pile already sitting on the table in front of me. The opportunity to pass on information I had heard at work, or church, or in the parent pick up line was too juicy to pass up. To share what I knew about the latest shake up in my circle of friends, co-workers, neighbors and acquaintances was something burning within me, dying to get out.
I wish I could say my motives in passing on information were altruistic, but truthfully the reasons were usually much less noble. My past relationships had taught me that new, not well known, inside information was the super highway of access to the inner circle of women and the means to temporary acceptance. My nugget of information gave me the undivided attention of those around me and in that brief moment I was noticed and special. Shamefully, I have given into the temptation to talk about someone else or to share the inside scoop on a sticky situation, just for the fleeting feeling I get from being the center of attention in that moment. Sharing can make me popular. It can also help me find allies in my private disagreements as I vent my frustrations instead of seeking face to face honest conversations with those who have hurt me.
Information that is not meant to be shared is gossip and God hates it. He hates it because it divides. It separates friends. It hurts. It infects. Gossip is a virus that seeps into relationships and organizations and destroys them. It twists and morphs into things beyond the truth of its original shape and size. Intentionally or not, when I share what is meant to be kept within certain borders, I contribute in the spreading of a disease that is difficult to cure and leaves lingering symptoms in its wake.
Proverbs 17:9 states "Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends." These verses tell me that what I say matters. Who I say it to matters as well. I am responsible for the words that exit my mouth. By keeping offenses behind the closed doors of my mouth and heart, I protect those around me from feelings that are not meant to be experienced by them and I offer silent grace to the offenders.
So the next time I am offered up that soft lob to share something I really shouldn't, I am going to pause before speaking. And, if I have to say "this doesn't leave this table" what I was going to say, doesn't leave my mouth. The cure for gossip has to start with me. Oh my, it is not easy...
Guard our mouths. Keep us from saying things that are meant to be kept private. Convict me when I talk too much. Let the truth of your word seep deep within me. "Where there are many words, transgression is unavoidable."
What Would You Give?
Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
I have a friend who was willing to donate a kidney to a stranger in order for her friend to move up on the donor list. She wasn't a match for her friend. So, she offered to do the next best thing, donate to someone else and in return her friend would get a kidney when a matching donor was found. She went through multiple tests, collected her pee for an entire weekend-twice, and was on call for months waiting to be summoned to the hospital for a kidney extraction- all for the sole purpose of giving her friend a chance at a longer, healthier life.
When she first told me what she was doing and asked me to pray for her, John 15:13 filled my mind, "Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends." The second thought was, "Would I do that for one of my friends?" I am not sure. You see my friend was willing to be inconvenienced for her friend. Her love transcended her schedule, routine, job, tiredness, obligations, leisure activities and personal desires. Her love was greater than her life.
Jesus calls us to love others as he loved us. That is a tall order, especially for me. Jesus' love for us was greater than his love for his own life. I find it hard to sacrifice my daily life for others. I like my routines. I keep lists and have mental plans for every day. I don't like interruptions and spontaneous is not my middle name. It is not something I am proud of, but it is hard for me to be flexible in order to meet the needs of others. I am not very good at laying down MY life for my friends (or family) sometimes. But, that is what I am called to do by the one who laid down his life for me. God has been growing me in this area of relinquishing for others. The first step for me is to be willing to give things up, and sometimes that is all that is ever asked of me.
What is God tapping you to relinquish control over today? What does love need to become greater than in your life? Show a friend you love her this week by giving something up in order to do something special just for her.
In case you are wondering, my friend didn't have to donate her kidney in the end. God provided one for her friend.
Let our love be greater than our agendas.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
"You're a dumb *#@.” “Shut up.” “Why so salty?" "Do you have to be so stupid?" Not so kind words swirl in the air of the hallways like dust caught in a wind storm. Teaching high school is not easy. Being in high school is worse. Corrupting talk filled with bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and slander flows from teenage mouths as freely as water from a spigot. Words and tones jab and poke at all who dare to come near them. Feelings are hurt and hearts are damaged by the poisoned barbs that rain daily from the sky. Grace, empathy, and forgiveness are anomalies in the halls of high school.
It's easy as an adult to pass judgment on the teens that surround me daily. I hear the mean words and flinch when I see the daggers hit their mark. I grieve for those who are torn down by their peers. I work to build community and protect the vulnerable in my classroom, but teenagers are masters at sniping at each other. Shot for shot. Jab for jab. So much energy is wasted on tearing each other down instead of building each other up.
But, am I really that much different? How many of my conversations are negative in nature and injurious to the character or reputation of someone else? Whose feelings have I hurt trying to be witty at their detriment? Teenagers aren't the only ones who can be mean and thoughtless with their words. Adult women have that tendency too.
Paul writes in Ephesians 4:29 "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." Wow. These are hard words for sarcastic girls like me. I like landing a good witty jab from time to time. But, Paul is telling me to stop punching. To stop using my words against others in order to make myself look good. Instead, I am to use my words to encourage, edify, and build others up. Corrupting talk is destructive. Its corrosive nature eats away at relationships and people weakening them to the point of destruction. Grace filled talk is nurturing and life giving. It builds relationships into strong safe harbors by offering hope, encouragement, and forgiveness. Grace carves out a safe place for others to grow and blossom. Paul is telling us we need to make a conscious effort to choose our words wisely and use only the ones that will benefit others.
So next time when you are in the hallway with friends, instead of sniping at someone with angry word bullets, launch mortars that spread kindness, tenderness and forgiveness instead.
Wow, Lord, words are hard. It is hard to control them, especially when we are hurt or angry. I want my words to encourage and not discourage others. Guard my mouth. Keep the mean words inside. May grace filled words be sprinkled throughout my conversations today. Amen.
Between a husband, 2 sons, and teaching high school my sanity is found in running and Starbucks. I have a circle of running friends who inspire me to be authentic and real as I live a life of faith before them.