I don’t know about you, but it is far too easy to fall into comparison.
When I really learned what comparison meant, I was in eighth grade art class. I sat in between the most popular girl in the grade and the cutest boy. He also happened to be the captain of the junior high football team. *Blushing* And as you would expect, they were both perfect at art.
We were learning about depth and shadows by looking at objects in front of us and then painting them. It sounds simple and doable, but if you have ever attempted this you know it is quite possibly the most frustrating thing.
At our cluster, the teacher had placed a flower pot, spoon, sea shell, and strawberry for us to paint.
In my mind, I could see how beautiful this would come out. There was so much potential. I would real lightly, with soft, beautiful, neutral colors paint this strange collection of objects. And the little strawberry would be the perfect pop of color while adding a sweet, freshness to the painting. Becoming excited, I eagerly set up all my supplies to begin.
As I put my brush to the paper, I was quickly made aware of the reality that my hands could not translate what my mind was imagining. The worst part… my table buddies were able to turn this now dreadful assignment into the most beautiful masterpiece, one that I could only imagine.
On Friday afternoon of that week, I shyly approached the teacher, who was hanging the finished art pieces on the wall, to ask where he would like my artwork to be displayed.
He turned around with a tack in one hand and another student’s art in the other, “hmmm…” He started, “You could put yours either back in the storage closet or just take it home.” I knew my art was not great, but I did not think it was ‘storage closet’ bad!
Heading back to my table to bring my work home he shouted, “Oh and Bethie! When you are finished can you walk with her to the front office and get a frame for her work? I would like to have her’s displayed in the front office for everyone to see.” He was pointing to my desk mate… the beautiful, popular girl, who had painted the same objects as me.
I know I cannot be the only one to have made the harsh realizations that, first, I’m not great at art and, second, comparison takes your excitement, love, and joy for something away so quickly.
Why is it we are so quick to look at where we stand with others? Why do we think that what they are doing is better, easier, fancier, more valuable?
I think this breaks God’s heart. I can only imagine how God would feel to have his creation (his masterpiece), who he created perfectly and in his imagine, feel inadequate and not as valued or beautiful or educated or unprepared or you name it.
Because the truth is that we have all we need to serve God and his will now. He has given us everything. And we each have our own and separate calling in life. Nobody can fulfill what God has in store for my life, except for me. And nobody can fulfill what God has in store for your life, except for you.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10
I find that truth to be so freeing! My gifts and strengths, as we have found are not art (or math for that matter), but I love to write. I love to bake and cook meals from scratch. And I like to think I am pretty good at those things too. I might not be able to paint a perfect replica of a strange set of objects, but I can take a beautiful photo of it. I might not have had my art framed in the front office, but I would like to see my desk mates try and fight off a grizzly bear in Glacier.
However, God has also given me spiritual gifts such as, compassion, empathy, and a fierce love for others. I care about people and their heart. Having walked through a few of life’s hardships, I have understanding for others in the midst of difficult seasons. I have been given a heart that cares deeply about people who appear that their world is perfect and in reality, they are hurting.
Those are giftings that God has given me to use in my own unique way for his purpose for my life. Nobody could ever duplicate that or do it better. And that is pretty special.
So, knowing that this is true for all of us, shouldn’t we be quick to cheer on others. When you are confident in your giftings and live fully into who God is calling you to be, why should what everyone else is doing distract you? Keep your focus on what Jesus is doing in your life.
And when you do find yourself falling into comparison, remember you are running different races.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” – Hebrews 12:1
If you are feeling down, invaluable, or less because of comparison, my hope is that this story would bring you a bit of encouragement. And, the truth is that God has given you great gifts and your own race to run. Run it whole heartily.
So, to finish my story…
I had brought my painting home. Not feeling too proud of it, I shared it with my mom to hear her thoughts. Forgetting what all the parenting books teach you to say about reacting to artwork like, “Wow this is amazing, can you explain it to me?”, my mom took one look at it and with her sweet, encouraging voice exclaims, “Wow! Bethie this is amazing! It looks just like a tub of ice cream with a spoon and strawberry! You should be so proud!” With a smile and a giggled, I explained, “Thanks, but it is a flower pot…”
We can’t help but laugh at this story all the time! And for the record I have found with a little better teaching and no comparison, art is much more enjoyable.