No one, however, could have prepared me for my inner demons. The spiritual honeymoon would come to a crashing halt in a way that would leave me standing stunned. A cloud of disbelief would soon envelope me and cause all kinds of confusion and questioning. A new kind of adrenaline would be pumping through my veins but, it wouldn't be one that included passion or joy - it would be one consumed with comparison, inadequate feelings and false perspectives.
You see, I fell victim to something that many of us do - the pit of comparison and competition.
I began to perceive ministry as a battle field. Not one for the Lord but, one that included me comparing myself with other women. This battle field would have me feeling overlooked, tired, and constantly gasping for air. It's a constant marathon that is so unnecessary but, it's one I fell victim to. It caused rifts with relationships and had me crouching in a corner all alone. If someone else was chosen to sing a solo or lead a group or take on a special task, I thought I was doing something wrong. I thought I wasn't good enough. I longed for that attention and I would long for the lives of these other women. Because, naturally, they had a deeper relationship with Jesus, were far more knowledgeable than me and had an amazing life. Right?
Oh how very wrong I was. So, so, wrong.
Unfortunately, it was a lesson that wouldn't be completely learned and applied until a number of years later. 9 years actually. If you do the math, that would mean it was just two years ago that I began to be refined and begin the stages of conquering this awful and wrong perspective.
You see, I had made ministry all about me. It wasn't about what God could do or bringing others into His presence. It was about me, what I could do, how I could do it and how I was doing while comparing myself with how well others were doing it. Was I not a good enough singer? Is that why I wasn't asked to sing that special song? Was I not knowledgeable enough with Gods word? Is that why I wasn't chosen to lead that group? Why can't I share my story? Why wasn't I chosen to speak at that engagement? Gosh, that lady sure has everything together. Her spiritual walk is amazing and admirable. Why can't I be more like her? It's no wonder I lost sight of WHO this was all for. It's no wonder I began to feel burnt out, hurt, tired and defeated. I was lost and wandering around in circles. Just like a lost sheep. Hmmm... this reminds me of a Bible story.
I had made things so hard and, quite frankly, terrible.
Five years ago, I gave up. I gave up on ministry and the church I had grown to love. The community of believers were doing incredible things in the city of Chicago. What had once been an incredible honor to be part of, had become work. So, I walked away. Not from God, mind you, but I walked away from people and ministry. (By the way, God might give us freewill but He makes it very hard to ignore Him.) I wasn't sure where I was going but it was definitely a spiritual wilderness. I noticed that I was too focused on me and my needs. It was a real moment that made me realize I had to shift my focus back on the One who designed me and called me into ministry. It wasn't about me. It could never be about me. And, I had no idea how I was going to shift my perspective back to where it should be.
I am so thankful for a loving Shepherd who is right there ready to guide us. Blind as we are, He is patient, gracious and loving. And, I'm so happy to share with you what I've learned this past year as my focus has slowly come back to Jesus.
There is a difference between placing people on a pedestal and counting others more significant than myself. How? Well, this is how I perceive it - I can place others in a loftier position and, in turn, beat myself up because I feel inadequate or don't measure up. Or, I can see each persons unique gifting within the body of Christ and affirm that. For example, I have a friend who is filled with wisdom when it comes to raising children. I'm not a mother. I am a teacher. There was a time when I thought I knew so much about children but over time, I learned that I have no idea what it is like to be a mother. God has not called me to be the one speaking into the lives of other mothers but, my friend is. She is someone I can send my mama friends to when they need wise counsel and prayer. We are all a team with special gifts and, together, the kingdom impact we can have is huge.
Comparison and competition are worldly actions. It seems to be even more rampant in American culture. I can open up a magazine or watch reality T.V. shows to see this first hand. Who is the most beautiful? Who is the better dancer? Who has the most stuff? It's all a competition to become the smartest, richest, most successful, etc. So, it makes sense how easy it is to allow that mindset to seep into ministry. I cannot conform to the worlds way of doing things. God's kingdom has a different perspective on how we should view one another. We are all part of the same family and He needs me just as much as He needs my neighbor.
Who am I trying to please? When I fall into the trap of comparison and competition, I realize that those are not feelings that would arise when serving God with all my heart. These are thoughts and emotions that come forth when I am attempting to please other humans. When I begin to desire being acclaimed by people, my focus is no longer on God. A new god has been put in His place and I, immediately, am breaking one of His commandments. He needs to be the focus. He needs to be at the center. He should be the only one I look to for any type of affirmation. After all, He is the reason I do what I do. He is the reason I sing, teach, create and nurture. It is all for HIS glory.
How am I measuring myself? Am I looking at how "successful" other people are or am I looking at my own actions and seeking ways to do my best for God. In every situation, in every position He has called me into, I want to make sure I'm not looking around at others and comparing myself with what they are doing. I need to be looking up and and within; asking God to seek my heart and reveal anything that needs to be improved.
When you strive to be the person God made you to be, you’ll find real meaning, purpose, fulfillment, and satisfaction. You can’t focus on your purpose while looking at other people. - Rick Warren
God created me to be me. He didn't create me to be in competition with someone else. That's not what it's all about and scripture makes that pretty clear. Also, I could sit here and type out all the amazing ways I've perfected this part of my personality and approach. I could tell you that, since God held me accountable and taught me HIS ways, I've never compared myself to anyone ever again.
Well, that would just be terrible to do because it would be a lie. I still struggle with this. I still find myself getting discouraged because I find my eyes drifting to the sides checking out what others are doing and comparing. The difference, lately, is how quickly I'm snapped back to the truth. It's a wisdom muscle that needs to be flexed and exercised. It will become easier and, in those moments of being completely thankful and humbled by the ministry God has called me to, I'm going to celebrate and give Him all the glory.