The Danger in Comparisons

Yosemite at Day

On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand…

That song came to my mind this morning as I examined my own heart and found that some weeds have grown up in there.

Comparison, I have found, leads me to two places.  Either I am puffed up in pride when I compare myself and in some way measure myself superior to the person with whom I am comparing myself, or I see some area where someone else excels and I know I do not, which tends to lead to self-absorbed grief and discouragement as I stare at what I lack.

As I head down this road in my thinking, it also manifests itself in how I interact with and think about these people.  In the first case, I feel the need to “impart my wisdom” and enter those relationships with a sense of superiority.  My pride puffs up in this knowledge that I might have something to offer, and my words suddenly become very important, necessary even, for this person to hear and benefit from.

On the other hand, if I see an area I lack, I fail to rejoice with that person in their gift.  I do not look for ways to affirm and encourage them in this area where I see God has blessed them, or rejoice in the manifested fruits of His Spirit.  I am only consumed by my own inadequacy.

I have seen evidence of the first comparison trap in the way I parent as well.  I hear the way I am speaking to my son or daughter, and it seems to drip with pride and this sense that I have wisdom to impart, and you should hang on my every word.

And though these habits do not pervade every conversation or thought which passes through my mind, I have found myself increasingly hungry to have these habits eradicated from my life.

I know the truth.  My security rests in my identity in Christ.  Any wisdom that passes my lips finds its origin in Him.  I am deeply loved and accepted in my broken state.  And it is from that place of acceptance and peace with God that we can have healthy interactions with others.

“No wonder Bonhoeffer makes the startling and conterintuitive statement “Let him who cannot be alone beware of community.” Without solitude we are dangerous in the human community and in the Christian community, because we are at the mercy of our compulsions, compelled by our inner emptiness into a self-oriented, anxious search for fullness in the next round of activities, accomplishments or relationships. When we are not finding ourselves loved by God in solitude, in the company of others we are always on the prowl for ways they can fill our emptiness.”

Ruth Haley Barton  Invitation to Solitude and Silence

“The gospel encourages me to rest in my righteous standing with God, a standing which Christ Himself has accomplished and always maintains for me…The gospel also reminds me that my righteous standing with God always holds firm regardless of my performance, because my standing is based solely on the work of Jesus and not mine.”

Milton Vincent  A Gospel Primer for Christians

“The ironical fact is that the church described by Jesus was the confessing community, the community of sinners, the community where people could be themselves. Jesus was very much aware of the danger of becoming identified with ideal images.  He was speaking about our unconscious life when he told us in decisive terms that the one who is concerned with the speck in another’s eye is a fraud.  This is instruction in self-observation which is essential if we are to make real confession. As long as we attribute our discontent to circumstances or to the failure of others to respond as they “should,” we are in trouble, and there is little possibility of our finding the community we long for. The pilgrimage Jesus talks about begins with looking to our own lives and finding there what blocks growth in our selves, and, ultimately, blocks growth in others.”

Elizabeth O’Connor   Search for Silence

Two passages have found their way onto notecards since the first of this year, and I want to share them with you.  Only through the power of God’s truth can we hope to eradicate the lies that harbor in our own hearts, and these two verses embody my hope in Christ to continue the necessary work in me.

Isaiah 50:4-5, 7

“The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary.  Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened by ear and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward…But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint,”

Psalm 141:3

“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

O, Lord, thank you for walking with us on this journey.  I am amazed that you draw near to me, a sinner, and offer me the priceless gift of intimacy with you.  Your son made it possible for us to live at peace with you.  We can draw near the throne of grace with confidence, and find mercy and help in our time of need.  You don’t want me to stand far off ashamed of my own sinfulness, but neither do you want me to draw near based on my own merit.  This is your work from start to finish, and only when I rest in Christ’s righteousness can I truly love others deeply from the heart for I am moving out of a place of fullness.  I am fat from feasting on your Word.  And we know that our worth is not based on what gets accomplished today.  Our worth is already established through Christ our Lord.  Service becomes an act of loving obedience- an outpouring that is measured and intentional, not feverish or frantic.  Oh Lord, guide us.  Direct our steps.  Keep our eyes on you. When we stray into comparison, lead us back into that quiet, restful trust.  May we be content to simply walk the path you call us to walk, to do the work you have called us to do.  One day at a time.  One moment at a time.  For as many days as you grant us upon this earth Lord.  For your glory, until you call us home.  Amen.