Nothing undermines and deflates our growth as women, our relationship with God, our marital joy and our vision in mothering as much as falling into the trap of comparing ourselves with others. Consider this a personal confession.
Several weeks ago a young woman asked me how to stay focused each day with energy, passion and purpose. I replied, ” Know your race well and know where you are going.” When I was a girl, I was a runner. Competing in races offered a tangible way to know my areas of athletic strength and weakness, identify my opponents, the particular terrain and to visualize the finish line. It presented the opportunity of intentionality, the thrill of challenge and the hope of victory. My legs were brilliant white strings; that’s what I was given to work with. It was a temptation to envy the girls with short, muscular and bronzed legs. As much as I fought the reality, I am built for a certain type of race.
We each are.
In my book I wrote, “The ageless and universal metaphor of the race and the inevitable prerequisite of training are made tangible. We can see it lived out before our eyes, and it evokes the fresh resurrection of the truth we all know deep within; every one of us was created for a race. We were made to follow, to train, to become fit to go forward and make history, clearing the way for the generations. When we lose this focus, we swim around in nonsensical ways and something within us slowly dies. We live as though we have no vision, as though our unique race is too small and too short to mean anything.” (p. 82-83)
Nothing distracts us more in our race than playing the comparison game. We become immobilized and unable to forge ahead, fearful to act, second-guessing ourselves and constantly seeking validation. Our idols are exposed. We feel “behind” or cheated or clueless. I could give a lengthly list that would detail what my race entails. Add to all this the particular culture of our family, the melding of our personalities, giftings, struggles, passions, experiences, assets and desires. I know well my race. And I know we are a wonderous creation in all our brokeness and glory. God sees our race full of exquisite and eternal meaning, a testimony to His ability to create each one unlike the other.
How often do we compare ourselves to others who aren’t even in the race that we are in? Frequently those around us are living with completely different sets of values and goals, obstacles and challenges from our own, but yet when we look over and see them “getting ahead” or “lagging behind” in some way we get frustrated or envious. When we compare ourselves with others we easily make judgements. We assess with such a limited perspective of the bigger picture that our comparisons are fundamentally flawed. How I long for the day that all our races will be made clear! For now, I am convinced they matter and I am determined that I will run it with all that is within me, for in heaven the chance will be gone. It is now that I have the oppourtunity to live and love in imperfection. As the German poet Rilke penned, “I want to love the things as no one has ever thought to love them, until they are ripe and worthy of You.”
There is a reason the apostle Paul admonished us to “fix our eyes on Christ, the author and finisher of our faith” and the prophet Isiah promised us “He will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee”. In John 21 the disciples are having breakfast with Jesus by the sea. He describes the way by which Peter will die. Peter, not recognizing this, turns around and points to another disciple and says, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus replies, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” My friend Wendy has accurately written, “Am I wrong to understand in this an implication that Jesus is saying, “Whatever I require of someone else, what is that to you? This is what I ask of you. So you follow Me.”
Jesus has asked you to run after him and immerse yourselves in His depths. He requires that you pay no heed to the race He has set out before others, except to cheer them on in the variety of ways that demands. No doubt that often requires rebuke or compassion, but don’t stop your run. Races only work if everybody is running. The great cloud of witnesses needs a moving race to keep cheering! What is your race and where are you going? What are your strengths and weaknesses, who are your opponents, what are your challenges and obstacles and what is your destination?
Know your race well and know where you are going. Run! Your race is beautiful.