compared to what?

I was a bit bored. A bit meh, as they say nowadays, with no inclination to work on the plentiful harvest of tasks around me started enthusiastically as recently as yesterday. Instead of getting up from the desk and doing something definite I decided to amble into some vague internet activity. Thought I’d look up a few names from the past. Peek at a few profiles.

Big mistake.

As I read of their apparently glittering lives and careers, I could feel my centre of gravity shift. My air began to escape, soon followed by tears. After an hour or so of this, I was flat, poured out. All my achievements suddenly tiny. My progress miniature. Meaningless. Anxiety pinned me to the ground, like those weights that used to drop from the sky in old Tom & Jerry cartoons.

You see, I haven’t yet grown out of comparing myself with others. A pointless, dangerous activity.

A wonderful discussion broke out on a great blog recently about this sense of inadequacy we all feel (women in particular) when we’re standing near a leggy gorgeous model-type. But our internalised sense of inferiority is what makes us feel cr*p, not how she or he, that glamour puss standing in the spotlight– looks. Surprising numbers of beautiful people feel ugly inside. We somehow believe we’re not quite good enough, or clever enough, or pretty enough or enough enough. I used to spend a lot of time picking at this scab. Comparing myself with my peers, or with people I studied with, or worked, figuring out what I should be aspiring to. Where I should be going, by when.

And where am I now? Right here. Alive. Blessed in countless ways. Challenged every day to get up and get on with it. Mostly succeeding. Making progress towards my own goals, no one else’s. Sometimes remembering to celebrate. So this detour into an old toxic behaviour was a useful lesson.

Don’t play with deliberate sin, a former Bible teacher once said to me. This habit of mine, of seeing what others are doing and comparing myself with them, is a sin for me because it is not based on faith, as it says in Roman 14 v 3. By looking at others I’m not trusting the process that I’m in with God. I’m looking around at the waves, like Peter did when he got out of the boat and started walking on the water towards Jesus. He was doing the impossible under Jesus’s direction until he got distracted.

I was doing the impossible (or at least for me the highly challenging) under Jesus’ direction until I got distracted. Now, my impossible (or highly challenging) may not look like yours. It probably is a bit pedestrian by comparison. But God and I know what progress has been made in this tiny mind and life this last while. And no amount of copying some other beautifully coiffed buffed or polished specimen is going to help me as much as listening to what God is telling me here in my life, in my circumstances, with my hangups and history.

So here’s a reminder for me and perhaps for you, if you need one. If you must measure yourself against someone, choose you. Measure yourself against yourself. Notice your progress. Celebrate your victories, however small. Often just getting through the day with a degree of equilibrium and good humour is victory enough.

When two is better than four

The youngest one and I went to the park so he could start learning to ride his bike without training wheels. I thought this would take a week, perhaps, judging from previous experience with his sisters. But after holding on behind while he rode across the field three times I decided to let go. Off he went, perfectly balanced. When his sisters rode past a few minutes later I called them over to watch. He rode round and round the field, whooping. I was so pumped that when of the girls started turning cartwheels, I decided to do one too.

Oops.

I had clearly forgotten how heavy and stiff I was on the outside because on the inside I was light and springy with excitement. So I did a cartwheel, or my impression of one, and when I landed I felt as if my left leg had been pulled out of its socket. There’s probably some proper medical term for it, though I’m sure FOOLISHNESS would cover it adequately. At least I provided a comedy moment for a couple walking on the pavement opposite the park, who had to turn their faces away, no doubt to hide their laughter. I hobbled home slowly while my children rode on ahead.

That was about 3 weeks ago. My left leg has almost returned to normal function, though the pain has been anything but funny. But my son’s joy was worth it all. He’s been beaming ever since. Looking for every opportunity to ride. Which led to the next challenge. You see, I had become nervous about cycling, basically because apart from a short spell at University, I had done very little of it. It was on my list of new year hopes to get back on my bike, and now the boy had learnt, I would have to do it. No more hiding behind the baby because the baby has grown into a confident, bike-riding boy. So without letting myself think too hard about it, I took myself into the local bike shop and made enquiries.

This week I went for a ride with a lovely woman who works at the shop and takes beginners and nervous riders out twice a week. She turned out to be Myra Moller, an elite cyclist from New Zealand. If I had known that beforehand I might not have gone, too intimidated by her pedigree. But she was patient and fun. And when I got back, I was beaming as much as my son had been 3 weeks ago. He and I are both learning about the sheer rush of overcoming a challenge. Now I’m more confident about cycling myself, I’m looking forward to taking him and myself out riding more.

Thank you Lord for what our children teach us.

No more cartwheels though.

So where is he, then?

Been a strange Easter, this one. Full and empty. Empty of emotion, full of stuff – the stuff that comes with children and (at this time of year) egg-shaped chocolate. Full even with church stuff. But empty of Christ, somehow.

I often have a good wallow at Easter, it’s the time of year when I am allowed to dwell on the awfulness of the world and our sinful state. I can keen and moan over the atrocities, the cruelties and the callousness we hear and see so much of that it becomes wallpaper to our daily lives, barely noticed, largely overlooked.

Easter is when I am most usually acutely aware of the contrast between the naked, dying God and myself, one of the comfortable creatures He made, cushioned from the impact of his passion by some two millennia. Long ago and far away, the story that the world can’t quite consign to myth has, at this time of year, the power still to move me. Over the years I have relived the emotions of what Christians call Holy week in all kinds of different kinds of services and easter traditions.

This year has been different.

Because this year I am different. My perspective has changed. I’m seeing the same scenes from a different vantage point. The man is still accused by jealous religious leaders who fear his hold over the crowd. He is still betrayed by his friend, deserted by those who had eaten with him hours earlier. He is still flogged and mocked by the Roman guard. Still an innocent brutally executed. But this man is more than anyone at the time even suspected. They didn’t know what I know. They don’t know how this part of God’s story in our world continues. What the next chapter holds.

This year I am more focused on the risen Christ than the crucified one. They are one and the same, of course. The latter demonstrates God’s frankly incomprehensible love for the world, which is so good at bad, and his solution to the breach that this created between him and his creation. The former, the risen Christ, demonstrates that the evils of the world we live in are not enough to extinguish the hope ignited by the story of the Jewish rabbi who did not stay dead.

Where is he now, then?

With me as I type, as I go about my daily life, listening, shaking his head perhaps in dismay at times, but at others smiling, egging me on, encouraging me to dream, to speak up, to laugh, to trust, to engage. To discover where he is out in today’s world.

Oh he’s alive alright.