Friday, August 5, 2016

The Death of Contentment?

Recently, I headed out the door both excited and a bit apprehensive to attend an “art night” at my friend’s house. While I’d love to consider myself artsy, I’m just… not. I must have been in the other room when God handed out the visually creative genes. I can write (sometimes), and I can sing (a little), and I used to be able to play the piano (before I had three kids and lost too many brain cells), but the truth is, I can barely draw a stick figure. So, the prospect of me doing something that involved painting and drawing was a little scary – no, let me re-phrase that – UBER, extremely, super-dee-duper scary.

Our little group settled in to make ATC’s, which, if you’re a cool, in-the-know artist type, you already recognize the acronym. The rest of you will just have to guess… No, just kidding! ATC stands for Artist Trading Card. It’s like a mini work of art about the same size as a baseball card. Artists use a variety of techniques to decorate these mini canvases, from paint and texture to magazine cut-outs and collages.

So, after instructions by our gracious hostess, I was off and creating. Happily. In my own little artsy world. Until I looked to the left and saw the coolest, most beautiful ATC created by a gal who said she wasn’t artsy or craftsy at all. What? I’m sitting next to an undiscovered Van Gogh!

This ought to be excellent for my budding artist self-esteem.

Then, across the table, another supposed “non-artsy” person was layering color upon gorgeous color with texture and glitter to make yet another fabulous ATC! 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I was happy for these closet artists who were discovering their inner Michelangelos. Really, I was. It was just that my own little humble ATC looked so simple and homely by comparison.

By comparison.

Did you catch those two little cancerous words?

Someone once said, “Comparison is the death of contentment.” Isn’t this so true?

Like I said above, I was happily creating in my own little world UNTIL I started comparing myself to others. The truth is, my mini canvas was beautiful in its own way – it was just DIFFERENT from theirs.

And the truth is, your life, mapped out JUST FOR YOU by a loving and gracious heavenly Father who has carefully crafted EVERY detail, is incredibly beautiful in its own way!

So why we do find ourselves playing the comparison game all the time?

We compare our kids to the ones who are smarter, better behaved, happier, more well-adjusted… or so we think.

We compare our husbands to our friends’ husbands, who we THINK have better jobs, more vacation time, do more around the house, buy better gifts, or write better love notes.  

We compare our lives to the girl next door. And you know what? She does the same!

So how do we get off this never-ending, death-to-contentment, crazy comparison carousel?

As you can see, I definitely don’t have that answer all wrapped up.

One thing I do know: God doesn’t want us comparing ourselves to others. Why? Because it leads to one of two things: 1) Pride (as in “Wow, I’m SO glad MY kids don’t behave that way!”) or 2) Discontent (as in “Man, I wish MY house was decorated like hers.”)

Either way, we’re in the wrong. So what’s a girl to do?

Check out this verse I found in Galatians 6:4-5 (it’s a dead-on paraphrase from The Message and I absolutely LOVE it!):

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.

Whoa! Did you get that? Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.

Yes. Yes! That’s it! But it’s oh-so easier said than done, isn’t it, friends?

Here’s what I’m going to do the next time I find myself playing the comparison game, and I hope you’ll join me: 1) Look up Galatians 6:4-5 (or write it down now and have it handy). 2) Read it out loud at least three times. 3) Thank God for three things about whatever or whomever you’re comparing. For example, if you’re comparing your child to someone else’s, think of three things you’re thankful for about YOUR child. 4) Then pray for contentment and freedom from comparison.

Thank you, Lord, for the life you have given me. Help me to stop comparing myself to others, and to keep my focus on You, the author and finisher of my faith!

(Reposted from the archives)                                 

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