“I don’t care if Suzie’s mother says she can watch more television before bed. I’m not Suzie’s mother.”
Oh, how often I heard phrases like this from my parents growing up, usually followed by a petulant “but Mo-om!”
Or teachers commanded “you just worry about yourself” when I went to tell on what Suzie was doing instead of her assignment.
Turns out I cared way too much about what Suzie was up to. And the likes of Facebook and Twitter have only added fuel to the fire, the way I can know exactly what Suzie has or is doing at rapid speed with the push of a button.
I picture God telling me the same thing as my parents and teachers: “I don’t care if Suzie tweeted her haircut or new car or vacation with her husband. You just worry about what you have and what you do with it.” Probably a bit more patiently than that because infinite patience with my hang-ups is a gift of His, but something like that.
Comparison plagues me, especially in today’s age of social media. Oh, that is my weakness. How quickly I can spiral. I know I’m not alone. Everyone has their own insecurities and struggles of all shapes and sizes weighing on their hearts. They are triggered in a variety of ways- from comment sections to conversations, from the experience you wish you had to the talent you always wanted. Comparison is ugly, set out to decide a winner and a loser, and it can rob us of some pretty good things. Energy. Confidence. Thankfulness. The pursuit of opportunity.
It is as old as dirt, or Cain and Able, the origin of jealousy and fuel of envy, rash action, or judgment. It fosters distraction when our attention should be Heavenward, and I’m pretty sure that God doesn’t appreciate it. We’re taking our eyes off of Him for an iPhone?
I know that I can quickly allow my focus to derail and I choose to find myself lacking, looking at what others seemingly have and what I seemingly don’t. And that is not how God created me to be. We aren't created to be caught up in worldly happenings and belongings at all, let alone allow them to discourage our spirit or distract us from the fact that we are loved by the Creator of the Universe. That is to be the most celebrated part of our lives, no matter our circumstances.
The Lord Almighty would not change one thing about us, let alone the little things that send us into a tailspin. God himself designed us, knit us together, brought us into being and equips us with His love, hope, and guidance as soon as we are born. He will never leave us nor forsake us, this Heavenly Father. And asks us to walk strongly and confidently in that.
We should be leaping through the streets and shouting joy from the rooftops with that kind of birthright, right? But somehow (because we’ve already decided that comparison breeds distraction), we take our eyes off the prize and aim them on an earthly prize.
Like cute shoes. That body. That corner office.
So let’s look at Paul to bring it back to reality. I love the book of Philippians and where Paul levels us all by saying:
“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”
Philippians 4:11-13 (NLT)
If Twitter were around in Paul’s days, I doubt he would have been concerned with what other people were up to, unless maybe there was a sandal sale in Ephesus. Okay, maybe if we’re talking on a heart-and-salvation level. He had a relationship with Christ, which meant he could do anything, regardless of what he did or didn’t have. He just wanted other people to feel the same way in their lives. That was his purpose, that is what mattered.
We should be celebrating the very fact that we are created in His image and thus perfect in his sight, with or without Twitter. With or without that car or outfit or job or talent. We are His, and that is enough. I know that I need that reminder like crazy. Like Paul, living with plenty or with little should really leave our mission unchanged: to reflect the light and love of Christ, with Him as our strength.
I’m daily challenged to stop looking around for how my life compares to others when I should be asking myself how my life is like that of Christ himself, asking myself where He is working. It is really a daily prayer to be protected from the threats to my joy. Am I paying as much attention to His voice as I am the tweets of others? Am I looking for where He’s working as closely as I am looking at the fashion I can’t afford? Am I deciding my worth as it relates to salary versus who died for me? What am I doing with what I do have? Am I reaching out to His children in person as much as I’m concerned with who’s online? Am I connecting with those around me rather than only looking for how we compare? Instead of looking at other people, online or otherwise, I should be looking up.
Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.
1 John 2:15-16 (NLT)
We are not without a Savior who died for us, a Lord who created us just as He saw fit and loves us unconditionally, therefore we are not without. So let’s live like we have everything, shall we? Go on, tweet about it.