The following account is a sadly true and embarrassing story about me. I hope none of you have suffered from the temporary insanity disorder I am about to lay out here, but if you have experienced this… you are not alone.
My day started out innocently enough. I puttered around the kitchen hovering in front of my espresso machine. There was no flight to catch. No early morning meeting to shower for. There was perfect stillness.
Which is the very reason I should have paused to bask in God’s goodness to me. I should have known better than to turn on my phone. Believe me. I know now. I see social media as an opportunity to connect with my friends. Flipping through posts would be kind of like having coffee with confidants. Longing for connection with others is great if it’s the right time and place. This wasn’t either.
As I scanned my Twitter feed, I began to recognize my stream of friends acknowledging a list. This wasn’t just any list. This was the list—one I very much wanted to be part of.
Scanning the names, it wasn’t long before I realized I had not made the list. Just about everyone else I knew was on it. People I had mentored made the list. Someone who translates my books into Spanish had made the list.
You may be wondering what this list was and why was it so important to me.
It was a list of the top 100 female ministers in America.
Ridiculous questions and comparisons flew through my mind. I read the postscript that trailed the list. Apparently, the author admitted that there might be room for oversight and some women who should have been added to her list didn’t make it. To rectify this, she had provided room for additions.
I scrolled down.
Would it be wrong to add my own name?
Was I serious? Of course it would be!
Maybe I could have my assistant add my name. Realizing I was teetering ridiculously close to the brink of junior high insanity, I went looking for my husband.
A fluffy whirlwind of pajamas, I stormed into his office bewailing, “John, I’m not on the list!”
My Bible-reading babe was confused. With my arms flailing about, I shared who was on the list and my obvious frustration of not being on it. When my rant was done, he calmly suggested a few Bible passages for me to review.
This was not the response I was looking for. I wanted him to say, “Lisa, I am so sorry. I agree there has been an awful mistake. Bring me my phone. I will add you to the list.” But he didn’t.
No sympathy was going to be found in the company of my husband. I stormed out of his office yelling, “I don’t need to read those Bible verses to know I’m wrong! I know I’m wrong! But knowing I’m wrong doesn’t make this feel right!”
Now I was mad at the concept of the list and frustrated with the author. Have you ever had one of those moments when you feel as though you are on the outside of yourself watching a crazy woman? That’s the moment I was having.
I put down my phone, closed my eyes, took a deep breath and let it go. As I exhaled, I heard the Holy Spirit gently ask, “Lisa, would you be this upset about the list if you were on it?”
Truth time. I would not have. I would’ve used my social media platform as a way of pointing others to the list.
I am the wife of one, the mother of four and a grandmother, and yet when I disconnect from my true identity I can still struggle with the cruelty of comparison.
When we look to others for our affirmation, we will always feel as though we are on the outside looking in. To be quite honest, there is no single person who can completely fill the void of affirmation in your life. (Sorry—even if your husband is perfect, it is not going to happen.) There is no lifetime achievement list or award that can ever write with assurance the words God alone can scribe on your heart: Loved, beautiful, valued, intimately known, mine.
No matter what it looks like from the outside, God understands what causes the quaking of a woman’s heart, and God knows how to calm the frenzy of women in pajamas who forget to still their souls before comparison comes to steal their peace.
As Theodore Roosevelt so aptly wrote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Comparison has a pull to it. If allowed to, it will always move you away from your truest center. Comparison will attempt to puff you up through the insidious vehicle of pride, or it will push you down through the tyranny of insecurity. Either way it will not be long until you feel as though you are off-kilter and on the outside looking in.
I hate seeing anyone intentionally left out. Yet there are times when feeling on the outside is the only thing that causes us to look within. In that way, the list was a gift because it located me.
So how about those Scriptures, the ones John suggested, the ones I knew? First, there is 2 Corinthians 10:12:
Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. (ESV)
Learn from me. Don’t you dare classify, compare or commend yourself. Why? It is an action of pride, even if the comparison you make is unfavorable. Pride imbalances one end of the spectrum, while insecurity cripples the other. There is but one true measure, the immeasurable Christ.
Here’s another one of the Scriptures I could have turned to: John 5:44:
How do you expect to get anywhere with God when you spend all your time jockeying for position with each other, ranking your rivals and ignoring God? (The Message)
Why would we waste our time ranking our rivals when we have been invited into the presence of the unrivaled God? Whenever I allow my life to be defined by people, I find my connection with my heavenly Father slipping. Soon my vantage is distorted by what I see and hear people say about who I am, and I forget God’s declaration of who I am becoming.
I hope you can laugh at my ridiculous morning and arrest any of your own tendencies toward comparison. The opportunity to know Jesus is our highest privilege. When I reached for my phone rather than choosing to know Him more, I chose the lesser thing.
Let’s not be satisfied with human lists and comparisons. When we notice the pangs of inadequacy that rivalry inflicts, let’s hit our knees and ask for a revelation of the One who is without rival.