Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The Lonely Path of Comparison

“I know I shouldn’t complain, other people have it worse…”

My feet have ached before, but nothing like this.  For seventeen years, point shoes rubbed and tore at heels at toes, blood blossoming out across pink satin, gore tainting elegant beauty.  Miles of pavement left inches of callouses.  A dislike for shoes in general have flattened and spread toes.  Doors have severed toenails violently; salty sea waves removed them gently…but nothing has left my feet as swollen and worn as waiting tables.  Add to it my brilliant decision to take two classes this semester (100 pages of reading a week for apologetics – help me, help me!) and there are days where all I can manage is when I get home is a few minute veg in front of the TV followed by five or so hours of oblivion.

But how can I be tired?  I don’t have a family to care for when I come home?  How do other people keep up with their reading?  How do they stay sane with a full time job, kids, and seminary?  I’m weak, I’m lazy, I’m a failure.  Other people are so much busier, work so much harder, have so much more on their plate and do it with a flippin’ Crest commercial smile.  I have no excuse to be tired, no excuse to be frustrated, no excuse to be behind.

“I think to have a regular job and be a mom is not as, of course there are challenges, but it's not like being on set.”

But at least married people have partners in their work; as a single, I’m doing it all on my own, creating a home, paying bills, making life decisions, worrying my family will end with me because I’m so insanely picky I can’t find the right guy.  My life is hard, it isn’t fair, I’ve always worked so hard, don’t I deserve a break, some kind of reward?

Does anybody else wrestle with these two mindsets?  On the one hand, guilt overload bears down, pulling us into despair and often paralyzing us against productivity and any possibility of deserved rest that might just restore the energy we need to keep going…while on the other hand, pride often rears its ugly head, lifting us up above our fellow workers in this world, destroying camaraderie and frankly pissing everyone off (Oh GP, please put down the mic and walk away slowly…).

Both roads lead to the wilderness, and not just a clearing in the middle of the woods with an awesome little stream nearby and green grass and an awesome view of the night sky.  This wilderness is dry and desolate and, above all, lonely.  When we compare our struggles to the struggles of others, we will always isolate ourselves, always. 

There is only one solution to this struggle, one remedy to this faulty mindset:  15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but [b]associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. (Romans 12:15-16). 

We should neither downplay nor exacerbate your struggles or the struggles of others.  The one leads to guilt, the other bitterness.  Instead, I think we need to allow ourselves to mourn the effects of sin, give ourselves the right to be frustrated and stress.  Jesus wept when Lazarus died (John 11); it is not a sin to weep in our struggles.  Using the argument that others have it harder robs you of this.  But when you allow yourself to mourn your own difficulties, an accept that they are, in fact, difficult without comparing them to others, then you are able to mourn with others as well.

Thankfully, despite our propensity to compare ourselves to one another, despite the difficulty of rejoicing with those who are rejoicing when we wish their circumstances were our own, we have a God Who is working for our good, for our holiness.

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

It is only by His power that we can love one another, and flee the lonely paths of comparison.