Numbers & Comparison
We all have them. Measuring sticks.
Literally or figuratively, we size up the spaces around, behind, and in front of us. Yeah. We like the feeling of attributing a number value to all kinds of stuff—money, success, number of likes, career, degrees, GPA, followers. Or perhaps it is more personal—our husband’s open pleasure in us (or not), or maybe it’s our kids’ contentment (talk about dangerous!), or whether or not the people we tirelessly serve mention their appreciation enough to fill our ever-emptying tank.
Higher Numbers Make Me Better
For many of us, we have subscribed to the notion that the higher the number, the louder the praise, the better we are.
Sometimes our calculations involve smiles, thumbs up, and hearts. But all too often, we can measure areas of disappointment and loss, too. You see, we can actually measure things that we have no business tallying.
As the tick-marks grow, one way or another, we make the attempt to figure out where we land on this stick (and in this life) and in doing so, miss the mark altogether.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of joining a group of women for a day of pressing deeper into what it means to truly, wholeheartedly follow hard after Jesus. It was a wonderful day of sharing, laughing, crying, and worshiping together. As I leaned into a particular speaker and her quietly spoken message, I found myself lost within a question…
“What are the measuring sticks that you are using in your life?”
I couldn’t ignore the prick within my heart. So, I did what I always do. I made a list.
First, I made a list of the areas I feel disappointed, disgruntled, disenchanted. (Why do we keep such careful record of those things, anyway?) I took a hard look at them. And what I discovered brought a visible wince from my soul.
All of those areas had to do with my attempt to measure my success – as a mother, a wife, a friend, a daughter, sister, woman of God – by how happy or content others were with me in those relationships. Did they approve of a decision I had made? Did it all work out the way I had planned?
Somewhere along the way my “measuring stick” began to look a lot like a pressure cooker.
For me and for the people I cherish. Pressure to approve, to agree, to behave, to look and act just the right way, say just the right things. I didn’t want to admit it, but my measuring stick just wasn’t fair. And all it really offered was the chance to miss what (who) actually mattered.
In taking a hard look at that stick, I had to take an equally hard look at what I was really asking of those I love. When I hold up that rapidly growing expectation and standard and wave it around for them to quantify and satisfy, I am really asking them to validate my calling and my life.
That was never meant to be their job.
In looking to them, instead of to my Savior, I put a pressure on them that they were never meant to carry. I had taken my focus off the loving gaze of my Father. That revelation hit me square in the gut. That morning I prayed God would help me to right things in my heart again.
Can you relate? Are you finding yourself on a treadmill that is going a bit too fast? Feeling like you are letting everyone down or not measuring up? I want to encourage you to take a good, hard look at what you are using to measure the life that God has given you. Ask God to reveal the areas that just might be off track and open your heart and hands if He shows you some areas that need to be redirected, or even renovated.
As I have mentioned before, this year God gave me a word to focus on: Behold. Centering around the promise made in Isaiah, He has been faithfully giving me opportunities to let go and to take hold of something even better. He is so good that way.
“Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it? For I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”
The Blessing in the Present
And you know what? He really is. Funny how releasing something frees your hands (and heart) to hold something infinitely better. I don’t want to miss…
Opportunities to love and to train up my children with joy and full expectation that God has good plans for them.
The sweet tenderness that my husband does offer, because I am fixated on the things he does not.
Chances to serve, to love and to listen well, and to be in the moment exactly as it unfolds.
The moments I am given, or short-change them, because I think they should look a certain way to count.
They all count. Every one of them is a gift.
Let’s be determined not to miss this—this life we have been given, just as it is—flaws and all—is precious. And let’s determine to lay down what feels like inadequacy, and open up to what is really just opportunity. Opportunity to be present, to be real, to be just what He made us to be. Let’s show up. Every day. Let’s realize that the only thing that is truly inadequate and doesn’t measure up… is that stupid stick.
The song I want to share with you today is from Matthew West’s album, All In. It is called, “The Beautiful Things We Miss.” Listen closely; it’s a strong message to all of us. It certainly was for me.
With joy for the journey,