When your kids start dating – 6 tips for parents

You have to be impressed with a boy who brings you Chick-fil-A when he shows up at your house to see your daughter. The kid’s got moxie.

Actually, he works at Chick-fil-A, which if you think about it, in terms of the teen years, it’s kinda like Abby is dating a man of the cloth. I like to think it’s God’s way of gently helping me into this new phase of life. It’s like He’s saying, “See Cynthia? Waffle fries. It’s going to be alright.”

On the other hand, it could very well be a brilliant scheme by Satan himself to get me off-balance. I imagine Eddie Haskell would have shown up with bag in hand if there had been such a thing as a Chick-fil-A drive thru in the 1950s. eddie haskell copy

I feel like I have my feet under me. The eldest has given us lots of practice. Still, the whole dating thing can be tough on a mom and dad. Since it’s List Wednesday, I thought we could explore a few parental do’s and don’ts:

Don’t follow her on social media for at least two months. This is part etiquette, part common sense. If you add the new girl on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram too quickly, it could send the wrong message, like you’re super creepy. But also I’m just trying to save you the awkwardness of unfollowing her in a couple of weeks when they decide they aren’t going to date each other after all.

Do take advantage of technology. I said don’t follow; I didn’t say don’t look. You can learn a lot about a person by his bio, pictures, and tweets. It’s modern-day due diligence and helps to make sure @straightouttasodom never sets foot in your house.

Don’t get too involved. If you’re helping plan dates and searching Pinterest for the most spectacular promposals, you’re probably headed for trouble. It shouldn’t be an emotional event in your life or an entire afternoon of deleting pictures from your phone when they break up. More importantly, a kid can’t think or see clearly to know if he should end things with someone if it feels like he’d be breaking up with an entire family.

Do ask the right questions. I have found, “Does she go to church?” and “Does she love God?” to be inefficient. But with, “Does she love Jesus?” we’re getting somewhere. Especially if you follow it up with a casual, “Like Oprah might love Jesus or…”

Don’t let my use of the word “dating” confuse you. I only used it for good writing flow. No one really dates anymore. They “talk” (text virtually nonstop), and they “hang out,” which means sometimes the entire relationship runs its course before you even knew it was a thing.

Do find out if he reads your blog. Because if he does, you might need to apologize for that “scheme of Satan” comment and Eddie Haskell meme you made. Maybe get him a milkshake from Chick-fil-A to break the ice as you attempt to explain it was really all just in good fun.

Straight Outta Sardis

I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Rev. 3:1-6

 

I recently joined a gym, and I didn’t even do it for the blog material, y’all.

Turns out, when you join this particular gym, you get a free session with a personal trainer. I knew this was about them trying to sell me the services of someone far more dedicated to physical fitness than I am, but it was free, and I’ve always wanted to be able to use the phrase “my personal trainer,” even if only for a day. So I went.

This is where the story gets a little fuzzy for me. It’s hard to remember how it all went down exactly, because about 10 minutes into the workout with my personal trainer, I became parched, dizzy, and somewhat nauseous. I do remember her telling me that my face had changed to a whitish hue and asking me what I had eaten that morning. Also, she wanted to know how much water I normally drink, and seemed overly concerned about hydration; which is weird, because I know for a fact I’d had at least 3 and maybe even 4 Coke Zeroes the day before.

It’s really not my fault. In our pre-workout talk, I told her what a sedentary lifestyle I live. I’m a writer, and sometimes sit at the computer for 10 hours straight, only getting up for the Chick-fil-A drive thru.

But it must have been tricky. Genetics gave me a lean frame; add to that my spunky workout clothes, athletic inclination, strong 10-minute showing on the leg press, and sunny disposition, and at first glance, I might seem somewhat fit.

I am not fit.

Clearly, she overestimated my physical abilities based on appearance. And so it was a middle-aged-woman-passing-out-one-sixth-of-the-way-into-her-workout just waiting to happen.

straightouttasardisIn terms of a place like LA Fitness, the church at Sardis was filled with Christians who seemed to be fit and lively, but were, in reality, about to pass out. On the outside, they looked alright. After all, they had been full of strength and energy in the past.

Jesus wasn’t fooled, though. He knew all about their sedentary lives, and neglect of the Holy Spirit they’d been given. But He wasn’t finished with them yet. There was still more work left to do; work that wouldn’t be completed if they didn’t wake up and strengthen what little spiritual muscle they had left.

I love the emphasis on Acts 2:42-47 there is in the church today. But the thing is, you can’t be Acts 2 if you’re happy and content in Sardis. Just like I can’t run through leg day with someone 20 years younger who spends her time in the gym, we can’t demonstrate the strength of the early church if, at our core, we are weak and listless in faith.

The good news is, change is possible. When we decide we will not tolerate our unhealthy spiritual state any longer, and turn from the appearance of true religion (neglecting the Spirit) to the reality of it (being filled by the Spirit), we’ll find a revival of Acts 2, even right here in Sardis.

A snarky listicle of mashups

Screen Shot 2015-08-29 at 3.56.48 PMSo it turns out these List Wednesday posts are an actual thing. I got this text from a friend over the weekend telling me it’s called a listicle. Who knew?

He went on to say that Joe Bunting (thewritepractice.com) did an informal survey on social media about what people think of when they hear the word listicle.

I don’t want to delve into that topic too much, but I do like a good portmanteau. In fact, I’m pretty sure I made up the word awesomtastic, even though the person who added it to urban dictionary in 2009 failed to give me proper credit. But I’m getting off track.

Since my blog is devoted to the listicle every Wednesday, and also because I want to let you know the suggestion box is always open (thanks to Brady Blair’s text and the corresponding Stuff Christians are Afraid to Admit), and most importantly, so  it will be a nontroversy on urban dictionary or in social circles when these words become part of everyday conversation…

Words that aren’t words, but should be words.

appendagoto  /əˈ pen dij oh toe/ (appendage + photo): when someone posts a picture on Facebook of her foot after a pedicure.

Considering how unsightly feet tend to be, I’m confused as to why there are so many appendagotos on the Interweb.

discombobipper /dis kuhbob’ ip per/ (discombobulated + worshipper): when you’ve never heard the song the worship leader is trying to get you to sing at church.

You can’t judge how well liked a new song will be on the first try by all the discombobippers whose lips aren’t moving. 

textafu /text uh foo/ (text + snafu): when you send a text to the wrong person.

I’m sorry about that textafu. I think you’re neat and everything, but I promise I meant to send that message to my husband.

dessertetour /dəˈ zərt eto͝or/ (dessert + detour): when you put on clothes to get on the treadmill but end up in the kitchen eating cookies instead.

I have great intentions to workout, but the dessertetour gets me every time.

miscalculaned /misˈ cal kyə lāned/ (miscalculated + lane): when you pick the wrong checkout line at the grocery store.

I picked the shortest line at checkout, but miscalculaned because the person in front of me had 52 coupons, two items required price checks, and it was the cashier’s first day on the job since cash register training.

purgatorent: /pərɡ ə tôr ənt/ (purgatory + parent): when your kids are almost fully grown but not yet ready to get married and give you grandchildren.

I think purgatorents are probably the most likely to post appendagotos, because, seriously, what else are we gonna post a picture of?

Now you try! Feel free to comment with your own made up, mashed up words so we can all chortle together.

We’ve been unfaithful.

 I fell on my knees and spread out my hands to Yahweh my God…our iniquities are higher than our heads and our guilt is as high as the heavens. Ezra 9:1-15

One of my strongest early memories is from the time I was 6 years old in a dance class in Houston, Texas. There was another girl, a year or two older than me that I carpooled with. After class, we would go into the convenience store next door. I felt so grown up getting to buy a pack of gum with the change my mom had given me.

Then one day the dance instructors called me into their office and said the other girl (we’ll call her Thelma) had been caught stealing from the store. Thelma told them I had been stealing, too. This was the first I had heard of it; I was 6, and still mostly sweet, so I was devastated and cried all the way home.

My parents knew I hadn’t stolen anything. I had the money to buy Juicy Fruit, because they had given it to me. So I wasn’t crying because I was in trouble; I was crying because it was unfair. I was embarrassed and didn’t like being blamed for something I didn’t do.

In Ezra 9, Ezra cried in embarrassment, too. But here’s the thing that gets me – he was broken and even shared responsibility for the sins of others, sins he didn’t commit.

Israel was supposed to be set apart. They were God’s chosen people. But they hadn’t acted that way. In fact, even the leaders had been unfaithful (v. 2) by embracing pagan practices in the most intimate way.

But Ezra didn’t shake his head in disgust or condemn the people in his heart. Devastated, Ezra fell on his knees and cried out to God in confession. Like similar prayers in Nehemiah 1:5-11; 9:6-38 and Daniel 9:4-19, the pronouns throughout Ezra’s prayer are revealing.

Never once does he say “they.”

Our guilt, our iniquities, our slavery. This is the prayer of a guy who understood what it means to be a part of God’s family. Yes, each one of us will stand alone to account for things done while in the body (2 Cor. 5:10). But we are also tightly and irreversibly connected to that body (Rom. 12:5). When one part fails, we all feel it. And we need to fall on our knees and cry out in confession.

In the wake of the Ashley Madison list, Ed Stetzer estimated at least 400 pastors and church leaders would resign their positions yesterday. That number was based on his conversations across denominational lines, and clearly, is only a microcosm of the apparent unfaithfulness in the church.

praying3As the body of Christ, if we are not devastated, humiliated, and spreading out our hands to God, then something is wrong. We need a lesson from Ezra. We need broken hearts, honest confession, earnest prayer, and a greater awareness that spiritual warfare is real.

There are true believers all around us who have been and are still now falling into the temptation of all forms of unfaithfulness. Fall on your knees and pray. And when you do, change your pronouns. Instead of praying for “them,” pray for “us”. We are, together, the body of Christ.

Parenting Whiplash (repost)

Seeing all the back to school pictures on Facebook this week has reminded me that school is a great revealer of personality. You can tell a lot about a kid just by the first-day-of-school look on his face. Here’s a for instance.
Scan 9

That’s year-2000 Brandon, on the first day of kindergarten. Although school came easy for him (he was 4 here, and reading on a 5th grade level), I can tell you the excitement on his face was far more about being seated next to Lexi Neighbors than it was about learning. He was then, and is now, the most social person I have ever known.

Don't get hung up on my typo, y'all.
Don’t get hung up on my typo, y’all.

What I’m saying is, regardless of any level of natural-born intellect, personality dominates. We saw this truth play out over the years, like here, in this text he sent me from class one day during his senior year of high school.

Abby, on the other hand, would never send such a text. First of all, you’re not supposed to text while instruction is taking place; plus, she might miss a valuable piece of information over which she might be tested at a later date. Her personality leads her to take an entirely different approach.

Both of our kids are smart and witty and fun. But in their unique brands of awesomeness, they have different temperaments and needs. What that means is that sometimes I have said something to one and then something quite the opposite to the other.

It’s parenting whiplash.

Since it’s the start of school and List Wednesday all at once, I’ll go ahead and show you what I mean.

Attendance:
to child A: You have a fever. You have to stay home from school. Also, I was thinking we could spend the day together next month on your birthday…lunch and shopping. Well, yeah, it’s a school day, but it’s okay to miss every once in a while. No? Yes, I suppose you’re right. You might have a pop quiz that day.

to child B: You’re not throwing up. Get out of bed. You’re going to school.

No TV Week:
to child A: I don’t care if your teacher said it’s “No TV Week.” We didn’t sign up for that. I promise it will be okay. Some rules are made to be broken, like the kind that try to keep me from watching Survivor. Popcorn?

to child B: You watch too much TV. Turn it off and read a book or something.

Fundraisers:
to child A: Selling 10 items is only a suggestion, and it’s not even due for two more weeks. I’ll buy you a giant sticky hand from The Dollar Store if you don’t earn it as a prize. 

to child B: Your fundraising packet is due tomorrow. Here it is, wadded up in the bottom of your backpack. What’s this brown stuff all over it? Never mind. Put me down for one scented candle. Yes, I’ll buy you a giant sticky hand…since you worked so hard and everything.

Homework:
to child A: You have a 99 average in that class. Why are you studying? Let’s go shopping.

to child B: Do you have any homework? Because yesterday you said you didn’t, and when I checked online I noticed that you had a test today. Yes, that grade is impressive, considering you didn’t study one minute for it. But when I ask about homework, studying for tests is included in that. Get off Twitter and go study something.

Standardized Tests:
to child A: There is no reason to be stressed about this test. You’re going to do great, like always. And even if it’s incredibly hard and you somehow don’t, it doesn’t matter to me.

to child B: You better get serious about this test right now, because if you mess it up you will not graduate, and no girl will ever want to date you.

I might have embellished a few of those, but you get the idea. How are your kids different?

#OOTD

 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Ephesians 6:10-18

Abby juniorI miss the days when I got to pick out my kids’ first day of school outfits. Today is the first day of Abby’s junior year in high school, and I didn’t even know what she was wearing until she came down the stairs and I sat up in bed to tell her a new box of her favorite protein bars was in the pantry.

Of course, I’m joking. Even though she has to leave for school before the literal crack of dawn, I did get out of bed. I’ll point my daughter to the pantry for a Pop Tart, but I won’t be the mom who takes a first day of school picture from the unmade bed I’m still trying to sleep in. You have to draw a line somewhere.

Anyway, how you dress the first day of school is a big deal. Just ask the kid who is right now sitting in the front office because he showed up in a “School is stupid and I hate it” t-shirt.

What you wear can say something about your outlook and readiness. Take me, for instance. I have found that if I put on athletic clothes in the morning, there is a greater chance I will get up from my office chair and attempt to break a sweat at some point during the day. On the other hand, if I head straight to my home office in pajamas, there is absolutely no chance exercise is going to happen. How I dress reflects my attitude and even impacts my behavior.

We get it when it comes to actual clothes. No one would show up for an interview at a law firm wearing Chacos and bermuda shorts. In Ephesians 6, Paul lets us know we should think about our spiritual lives in the same way.

There are battles you’ll face today. Difficulties you’ll confront. Temptations that will threaten your obedience to what the preacher said and you amened on Sunday. At some point, circumstances might even have you thinking, “This day is stupid and I hate it.” Or maybe everything will be great. Either way, it’s the same.

This is not to minimize Paul’s point about spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:11-12. But Satan often does his best fighting when we don’t even recognize there’s a battle going on. His scheme is to distract us from eternal things with the stuff of earth.

So before there were ever selfies and clever hashtags, Paul said there is an outfit of the day. It’s the same outfit we should wear every day, whether it’s the first day of school, the 563rd day of work, or a week of vacation. The way you stand strong and keep your focus is to wear the right clothes; to put on the full armor of God – truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, God’s Word, and prayer.

When your kid wants to quit

Pittsburgh Steelers LB James Harrison’s post about returning his sons’ participation trophies has stirred up debate. I can see both sides of the argument. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to give young kids something tangible to remember being part of a team or activity, no matter how they stood up against the competition. There’s also nothing wrong with wanting to teach kids there are rewards you get for hard work you don’t get for simply showing up. And it is certainly Mr. Harrison’s prerogative to parent his boys the way he feels is best for them.

To me, the bigger question for every parent is this: how do we react when our kids decide they don’t want to participate at all?

whenkidswanttoquit

Maybe we don’t like participation trophies, but we do like trophies. Sometimes we like them more than we should. Whether those trophies are something you put on the shelf, or something that more resembles the pride a father feels when his son’s name is announced over the loudspeaker, sometimes they tempt us to push our kids into continuing pursuits long after they stop having any sort of passion to do so.

What do you do when your kid wants to quit? No doubt, there are times we need to lead and encourage our teenagers to stick with it. But there are also times when it’s appropriate to give them permission to let go. As parents, the challenge is seeing past ourselves so that we can know the difference.

I don’t want my kids to be quitters. I don’t know a parent who does. But maybe a definition of quitter would be helpful. When a 9th grader’s name is written on the team roster, he has not signed a 4-year contract. Walking off the field or clearing out your locker mid-season is not the same as making a post-season decision to pursue another passion. There’s a difference between being a quitter and quitting.

Teenagers are in a time of life when they are discovering who they are. Why do we expect them to wait until college to act on those discoveries? Maybe the reason college students change majors 17 times is because it’s the first time in their lives they’ve felt they had choices, and aren’t sure what to do with them.

You have to know your kid. If he’s wanting to quit because he’s mad his coach made him run lines for being late to practice, that’s not a good reason. If she’s wanting to quit so she can spend more time with her boyfriend, that’s not a good reason. If she’s wanting to quit because she gave it her all and now feels a strong desire to give her all to something else, you have to consider – maybe that’s a good reason.

But he’s really good at it (or could be). If we’re going to say we don’t want to teach our kids entitlement by awarding them for participation, then we must also agree we are not entitled to having them participate in activities we love more than they do.

This summer our 16-year-old daughter told us she wants to quit basketball so she can invest her time in things that will help with a future career in journalism. She doesn’t think about playing basketball long-term; she dreams about being a writer. That is where her heart is. She’s good at basketball. She has been awarded for her leadership on the team. So it wasn’t an easy decision. It wasn’t easy for her to bring it to us, or to her coaches and teammates. And honestly, it wasn’t easy for us in giving her guidance. The bottom line is you can be good at more than one thing, and sometimes, you have to narrow your focus….even if that means disappointing some people. That’s a valuable life lesson.

It’s important to be part of a team. True fact. There is no debating the value of working together with others for a common goal. The problem is when we think the only place that happens is in athletic competition.

As a parent, I have to recognize that my daughter will be no less part of a team by being a part of the newspaper or yearbook staff, just like there are kids learning team concepts in band, theater, the classroom, and in their church youth groups. There are many ways to be a part of a team.

One of the things I appreciate most about my childhood is my parents encouraged me to try all kinds of activities. I took swimming lessons, diving, tennis, ice skating, and gymnastics. I was a cheerleader for a season (Pee Wee Football, The Woodlands, TX, circa 1977). I played softball and basketball. I took 5 years of piano lessons. When I got 3rd place in UIL speech competition, mom and dad let me go to a speech and drama camp. The point is, the whole world was made available to me. Never once did my parents force my decision-making or make me feel the burden of an expectation to be or do something. They simply gave me the opportunities to discover for myself who I am and the gifts God has given me.

No, everyone is not a winner in sports. But we don’t have to help our kids learn that lesson. They learn it naturally, from the time they start choosing captains on the playground at recess. What we can help them learn, instead, is there is a world of opportunity with room for all sorts of gifts and passions. And in the pursuit of finding your place in that world, sometimes, it’s OK to quit.

Entertaining Snacks and other reasons I don’t like to go to the grocery store

Clay: “I think that in some cultures, preparing breakfast is high on the list of duties of the maternal figure.”

Me: “My guess is those cultures don’t have Pop Tarts.” 

I actually do like to cook. It’s the planning that cooking takes that has become a burden to me. As your kids get older, you never know who, if anyone, will be home for dinner. Brandon and Abby both have jobs, so it has been rare that all 4 of us are home for a meal at the same time this summer. Besides that, when you plan actual menus, the grocery store experience becomes a whole thing, not just a dash down the Pop Tart aisle. You have to focus.

It is rare I get home from a trip to the grocery store without some kind of omission (I forgot to get toilet paper and we’re completely out), or unnecessary addition (Oops, we already had an unopened extra-large jar of Peter Pan Peanut Butter). I blame it on the distractions involved in the grocery shopping experience. I can do that, because it’s List Wednesday. So here they are –

4 grocery store distractions that you can blame for wanting to eat out.

Empty stomach. They say you shouldn’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. I don’t know why. When I head to Walmart on an empty stomach, I typically come home a hero. Still, it can be a distraction. It’s hard to focus on the benefits of kale when you’re hungry and about to hit the aisle where they keep the Twinkies and Ding Dongs.

entertaining snacksFalse advertising. I saw this sign and it drew me in, so I went to check it out. When I peeked inside and saw there was nothing particularly entertaining about the freezer section, I realized I had been duped. Either that, or I misunderstood the sign’s meaning. I’m not gonna lie; it took a good 3-5 minutes for me to let go of my disappointment.

Cart traffic. Outside of common decency, there are no rules here. No line down the center of the row to keep carts on the correct side. No limit to number of family members who are allowed to travel with, in, or around a cart. No posted cart-maneuvering instructions at the end of each aisle to prevent collisions. No licenses for driving carts required. And I will tell you this – there are few things more painful than taking a grocery cart to the Achilles. At that point, you might as well just leave your kale and head to Chick-fil-A.

The double pass. It’s hard to know what to do when you run into someone you know at the grocery store. When you first see them and cross paths in aisle 2, you share pleasantries and go on your way. No problem. But invariably, it’s going to happen again a few minutes later in aisle 3, and then it’s just awkward all the way around. What is proper decorum in this situation? Do you avert your eyes and pretend you don’t see them? Do you say hello a second time? Do you tell them about the Entertaining Snacks?

I’m sure there are more, but everyone is home tonight and I need to go finish cooking dinner…unless I forgot something when I was at the grocery store earlier today, in which case, we’re going out:)

It’s all part of my testimony

My mouth will tell about Your righteousness and Your salvation all day long,
though I cannot sum them up. I come because of the mighty acts of the Lord GodI will proclaim Your righteousness, Yours alone. God, You have taught me from my youth, and I still proclaim Your wonderful works. Psalm 71:15-17

 

“It’s all part of my testimony” is something I say often. Like when I misjudge the space through an open door and slam my shoulder into the door frame, for instance. I typically say it for laughs, but it’s true. Every part of every day really is part of my testimony.

I think the first time I realized that was when I was pregnant with Brandon. It was 4 days past his due date in Orlando, Florida. I had an appointment with my doctor, and he was going to schedule a time to induce labor. The nurse began the routine check of Brandon’s heart rate. Immediately, both the doctor’s and nurse’s faces fell, and I knew there was a problem.

The doctor said, “We need to get him out now.” I explained the hospital where we were scheduled to deliver was across town, about 20 minutes away. The  doctor responded, “We don’t have time for that. He’ll be dead by the time we get there.”

At that point, Clay was trying to pass out on the floor, and had to be helped out of the room. The doctor left to make arrangements, and I started rattling off names and numbers of people for the office staff to contact for us. Then the nurse and I walked together across the parking lot to Sand Lake Hospital next door.

Sand Lake Hospital didn’t have a pediatrics unit; from its location, I think it was really just for people doing Disney World who needed emergency care – probably rule breakers who didn’t keep their arms and legs inside the log ride. So they were flying by helicopter a pediatrics team from another hospital to be there when Brandon was born.

As I walked across the parking lot with the nurse, she was shaking and holding onto me for support. Total calm had come over me and there’s just no way to describe it except to say that it was God’s peace that passes all understanding. We walked into the hospital and a swarm of doctors surrounded me. I had a few things to sign, and then someone counted down from 10, and at 4, I was out.

When I woke up later, the same nurse who walked across the parking lot with me brought my healthy little boy and put him in my arms. She explained the umbilical cord had been wrapped around his wrist and across his neck and he had been strangling himself. Through tears, she told me that my calm was part of what had helped to save him.

Scan 8My appointment was at 10 am that morning, and Brandon was born by emergency c-section at 10:50. That’s how fast the whole thing happened. When I think about the events of that morning and how everything had to happen just right for him to make it, I’m still just amazed.

Before that day I knew that God’s peace passes all understanding, but through that experience I owned it. It’s part of my testimony. And I could go on and on. There are hundreds of other experiences in my life God has used to grow my faith. Some of those experiences have been happy and good, and some of them have been terribly painful, but in each and every one of them, He has shown me more of Himself.

b 20Yesterday we celebrated Brandon’s 20th birthday. For two decades now, he has been a part of my testimony, and what fun it has been for me to get to be a small part of his! I love knowing that God will continue to use the experiences of our kids’ lives, coupled with His Word, to give them understanding. I love knowing He’ll do that for you, too.

I hope you’ll embrace God’s extraordinary love and the unique faith journey He has allowed you to take with Him. And then, like the psalmist, be ready and willing to share that with other people. Your story is your biography of God’s faithfulness to you and your response back to Him. It is the power of the gospel in you.

Whatever today holds, it’s part of your testimony.

Don’t even try to compare

 For we don’t dare classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. But in measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves to themselves, they lack understanding. We, however, will not boast beyond measure but according to the measure of the area of ministry that God has assigned to us, which reaches even to you. 2 Cor. 10:12-13

 

“I’m the best writer I know.”

The conversation has stuck with me for years. We had just moved to a new town and I was talking with a couple of church-leader friends about church ministry type stuff. In that context, one of them casually dropped his very revealing self-assessment. He wasn’t joking, but I don’t think he thought it through, either. And he wasn’t directing it at me, necessarily. But there it was, a brick wall thrown up where an open door should have been.

“No, you’re not.”

I didn’t say it out loud, but that’s what I was thinking. Because I am hard-wired the same as him and every other person who walks the earth. We’re sinful, so we’re prideful, and we compare.

Paul called it foolishness.

Whether comparison has you feeling too high or too low, it is a subtle, yet dangerous, missing of the point. Comparison can have you thinking, “You would be more useful if you could __________ ,” or it can have you thinking, “You could be the next (insert really important person’s name here).”

Either way, reject that mess.

When you measure yourself by yourself, or compare yourself to another person, it diminishes the greatness of God, as if His designs for a life are not big or important enough. In a low sense, what happens next is you don’t live out your purpose and calling, because you’re too busy wishing it was something else. In a high sense, you fail to help others to live out their purpose and calling, because you’re too busy being impressed by your own.

You are not the next (insert name here). The world doesn’t need one of those. You are you, with specific gifts, experiences, and a sphere of influence that only you have (1 Cor. 7:17).

You would not be more useful if you had someone else’s gifts and abilities. You are meant to be useful exactly in the way God purposed you to be (1 Cor. 15:10).

The problem with comparison is that it always misses the mark. If you want to compare something, compare God’s call on your life to the reality of how you’re living (2 Cor. 10:13). That’s the only comparison that matters.

There is freedom from both pride and insecurity when we focus on God’s call instead of our own abilities. And then a remarkable thing happens – the brick walls of comparison crumble, and others’ gifts become open doors through which God helps us live out the reality of that call together.

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