“We are all called to the sacred task of being ourselves.” Those were words spoken at our church recently by a visiting missionary. They resonated with me, mostly because I have spent the greater part of my life wishing to be someone other than who I am. If I’m called to the sacred task of being myself, then wishing to be someone other than who I am is a serious problem.
Have you ever felt that way? I’m guessing that I’m not alone. From childhood, I’ve been plagued with these nagging thoughts that I’m not pretty enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not ____________ enough (fill in the blank with just about anything you can think of). I’m not enough. I’ve struggled with looking at the people around me and wishing to be as _____________ as they are (again, fill in the blank).
In the years I was growing up, my sister was the object of my comparison most of the time. Some of you are fortunate enough to know her. She’s pretty great, right? Being her younger sister, I was captivated by her. And every time, I measured myself against her, I came up short. She was prettier than me. She was skinnier than me. She was smarter than me. She played the piano better. She read faster. She learned more. You name it, she did it well. And instead of celebrating her successes, I resented them because I thought they only highlighted my inferiority.
I remember having so many conversations with my parents through the years about this very thing. They were wise and saw this crippling thought pattern that was developing in me. They explained over and over that I wasn’t created to be the same as my sister. They loved me through my mess and tried to encourage me to be comfortable in my own skin. As much as they tried, I really wasn’t convinced.
As a young adult, my focus expanded beyond my sister to others around me who I perceived to be better, more talented, smarter, prettier. I found myself constantly comparing myself to others, constantly measuring myself against what I saw around me, and constantly coming up short. This mindset became a way of life, and it was debilitating. Maybe it’s why the Bible says –
“But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!” (2 Corinthians 10:12b, NLT)
I needed to know the truth in this area, and God, in His great mercy, has been teaching me some truth that I would like to share. In full transparency, I haven’t mastered this truth, but I can claim progress by God’s grace.
God is the standard of measurement. Other people are not. Instead of looking around at others to measure my success, failure, value, or worth, I must look to God as the standard. Now, when I do that, I will definitely realize that I’m not good enough on my own. But when I understand that because of the price that Jesus paid for me at the cross, I am covered in His righteousness, it changes everything. I am a child of God, blameless before Him because of the sacrifice of Jesus, and I am eternally loved.
“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us who belong to His dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins. He has showered His kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” (Ephesians 1:5-8, NLT)
Comparing ourselves with others is hazardous to our spiritual and emotional health. As I was pondering comparison this week, I realized a very simple truth. When I compare myself with someone else, I very rarely break even. More often than not, I will either consider myself superior to or inferior to the other person. Both conclusions are dangerous. If I decide I’m superior to that person, it is prideful and self-righteous. I will look down on them, mistreat them, and fail to love them well. If I decide I’m inferior to them, it causes resentment, feelings of failure and inadequacy, and it can paralyze me. I would argue that it’s also prideful because it charges God with not doing a good enough job when He created me. It’s a subtle accusation that I think He could have done better.
“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’ How terrible it would be if a newborn baby said to its father, ‘Why was I born?’ or if it said to its mother, ‘Why did you make me this way?’ This is what the LORD says – the Holy One of Israel and your Creator: ‘Do you question what I do for my children? Do you give me orders about the work of my hands? I am the One Who made the earth and created people to live on it. With My hands I stretched out the heavens. All the stars are at my command.” (Isaiah 45:9-12, NLT)
I can find joy and contentment in being who I was created to be. When I was young, I was an avid Amy Grant fan. She sang a song that to this day, makes tears well up in my eyes. Honestly, when I hear it even now, I remember that little girl who wanted so badly to be like her big sister and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t manage to do it. The lyrics of this song were a healing balm to that little girl’s heart, and it has taken years for me to begin to understand the truth in them.
When the weight of all my dreams is resting heavy on my head,
And thoughtful words of help and hope have all been nicely said,
But I’m still hurting, wondering if I’ll ever be the one I think I am, I think I am.
Then, you gently re-remind me that You made me from the first,
And the more I try to be the best, the more I get the worst.
And I realize the good in me is only there because of Who You are, Who You are.
And all I ever have to be is what You’ve made me.
Any more or less would be a step out of Your plan.
As You daily re-create me, help me always keep in mind
That I only have to do what I can find.
And all I ever have to be, all I have to be, all I ever have to be
Is what You’ve made me.
I’m learning that God created me just the way He wanted to. He gave me the personality, the character traits, the talents, the physical attributes, the intelligence, and the interests that He wanted me to have. None of it was by accident, and none of it was a mistake. I am who He created me to be. I don’t need to look around me to determine my value. I need to look up. My worth is in the One Who fashioned me and loves me beyond my imagination.
“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous – how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in Your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are Your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, You are still with me!” (Psalm 139:13-18, NLT)
“God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:8-10, NLT)
For me, this learning has been a journey, and the truth is setting me free. I hope this truth resonates with some of you, too. You are God’s masterpiece, created by Him just the way He wanted you to be. This week, let’s ask God to help us to avoid looking around us to see how we measure up and to find our value by looking up to our Creator and understanding that He does all things well. “We are all called to the sacred task of being ourselves,” and all we have to be is what He’s made us to be.
Dear Father, would you forgive us for those times when we have compared ourselves to others and considered ourselves superior to them? Forgive us for the pride in our hearts that looks down on and mistreats others who have been created in Your image. Would You also forgive us for the times when we have compared ourselves to others and considered ourselves inferior to them? Forgive us for accusing You in our hearts of not creating us well and for not making us the way that we think You should have made us. Will You help us this week to stop looking around us to find our value and affirmation? Help us to look to You and to the truth in Your Word to understand who You’ve made us to be. Keep us from the trap of comparison, and help us to celebrate the successes of others instead of letting their successes make us feel inferior and inadequate. May we look at all of Your image bearers (including ourselves) and know that You do all things well. Thank You for creating us in just the exact way that You wanted to, and thank You so much for loving us. Help us to share that love with others. Amen.