I posted last week about a sensitive topic that’s been on my heart for a long time but eluded my words: that it’s a little awkward for us to be teaching people to “stop comparing themselves to others” when we ourselves hold a considerable amount of power over whether they feel the need to compare.
We all have a part to play. Whenever we choose someone else’s companionship or potential over another, we make a comparison. Everyone’s got their A-lists and D-lists, and I’m no exception. I’ve been rejected, and I’ve done some rejecting. And when people learn, in their youth, that they are being compared to others by others, it is only natural that they’ll join in. Lonely people can tell you this better than anyone.
To be sure, our lives are jam-packed and we don’t have time for everyone or everything. But even that feels like an excuse at some point. I know I’ve missed opportunities to show the love of Christ. It makes me wonder what the kingdom would look like if we really celebrated everyone as an image-bearer of God.
What is the Biblical solution?
If you’re asking “Just what is God like?”, few books of the Bible answer more directly and generously than the Psalms.
Yesterday I was reading through Psalm 103 (one of my favorites) and found myself stopping on verses 13-16:
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
I stopped reading. A lump had taken up residence in my throat. Yes. This is me. Dust. Temporary. Fragile. It’s what I am, and moreover, it was how I’ve been feeling lately.
And God knows.
If you’ve read my blog lately, you know I devote the occasional post to Reacting to Internet Memes™. I didn’t intend for that habit to happen. Like tofu, it just kinda did.
Today, it’s this (and a collection of similar meme quotes):
“When people walk away from you, let them go.”
“Run, my dear, from anything that may not strengthen your precious budding wings.”
“Letting go of negative people doesn’t mean you hate them. It just means that you love yourself.”
“Keep people in your life that truly love you, motivate you, encourage you, inspire you, enhance you, and make you happy. If you have people who do none of the above, let them go.”
You’ve probably seen that. It’s about knowing when to let go of people. (Do not sing Frozen songs at me. I will hit myself with a chair.)
On one hand, I understand. Life would be so much easier if it wasn’t for people. God does say “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). If your walk with God is threatened, we have Biblical basis to pull out of hard relationships. You owe God more than you owe anyone.
But the above collection of quotes – which is bombarding the “keep things positive” side of Facebook right now, I might add, and influencing an entire generation – is speaking of an entirely different motive: letting go of people simply because they are difficult. No character threat, just high-maintenance.
And absent anywhere in that line of thinking is the thought that it might actually not be about you at all.
Imagine the most gracious person you know. Someone who is always kind and patient with you, hard to offend, listens well, sees good in you that you miss, holds a higher opinion of you than you do. They might correct you when necessary, but they do so gently, and there’s never any doubt that they still believe in you. Their influence has only been positive.
It might be a best friend, a mentor, ideally a parent or grandparent. Whomever it is (I highlighted the correct letter for the grammar nerds), you feel safe and welcomed in their presence, even if you’ve made a mistake. You know, from your long experience, that they see more good in you than you do in yourself, and that they’ll be very hard to drive away.
Jesus Christ is better than that person.
He has more of everything that you value and appreciate about that person.
That really does take some of us aback. Especially the “hard to offend” and “sees good in you” parts (John 1:47).
For many of us, God is little more than the Cosmic Fault-Finder. And to be sure, he does point out sin. He’s allowed to get angry with us when we provoke him. He’s God.
But the manner in which he deals with us, from our good moments right down to our very worst, is laid out very clearly in Scripture.