When Peter and I were first married, we lived in South Dakota DURING THE WINTER! Anyone who has been to South Dakota will tell you it is a beautiful, gorgeously colorful state during the summer and fall but in the winter it is pure white. Back in the 70s on my uncle's ranch, there was not much to do on those snowed-in evenings in our little bunkhouse but play Scrabble...the only game we owned at the time. I'm just going to tell you all up front...I was pretty stinkin' good at Scrabble:). But one infamous night I wasn't. Peter got one of those magical moments when the triple word square lines up with a triple letter square and he put a z on that puppy, added an s to another word to create two and tripled the whole mess up! As he added all his points up with a REALLY OVERLY GLEEFUL ATTITUDE, I fumed. And then it happened. Peter, to this day, says this moment is "freeze framed" in his mind (wonderful...just great). In my anger, I slammed the board together and tiles flew everywhere! And to be extra dramatic, I threw the board on the bed and ran into the bathroom, locking the door behind me...(as if he would want to be near me after that).
I tell you this lovely little scene from our early married life to illustrate the point that for as long as I can remember, I was a competitive person. As a child in a large family, I competed for food (who got the biggest of anything), I competed for space on the double bed I shared with my sister, I competed for friends, for boyfriends, in cheerleading (I know, some of you are gagging right now), and in all the sports in PE.
In my young worldview...life was one, long competition...that you had to win. Then Jesus came into my life and slowly changed that view. I say "slowly" because for so long I didn't even recognize some of my competitiveness as something wrong, let alone sin. I am not one of those who believe there should be no competion in the world...that no one should get the trophy or an award for excellence. But in all things, there is the healthy and God honoring that contrasts clearly with the unhealthy and self-serving.
All this came to mind with a question one of the girls e-mailed me about this week's lesson. She wondered what she was supposed to put in those blanks on page 30: "God, who is at work in the ministry of ____________ as a servant to _____________, is also at work in my ministry to _________________." I really had to ponder this one too. At first I thought of it in terms of literal ministry in the church such as "God who is at work in the ministry of Nancy as a servant to the ladies in the morning Bible study is also at work with Diane to the ladies in the evening Bible study." But I think there is even more to it than ministry within the church. Maybe it is also about everyday life. Maybe this statement could be read "God who is at work in my ministry to my family, to my husband, in my home, is also at work with Joni, to her family, her husband and her home."
Being imprisoned by competitiveness in the area of comparing ourselves as wives, mothers and homemakers can be stifling to our own growth and to the growth of fruitful relationships. It took me awhile to come to the realization that my ministry in my own family is going to look different than other mothers in theirs. Different people are involved, different temperaments, personalities, giftings, and a unique mixture of all in each family. No family will look like mine so it is impossible to make a comparison. The problem comes in when we look at another family or woman and think to ourselves "THAT is what 'great' looks like." We usually do one of a few things or maybe even all. 1. We feel like we don't measure up...that we are a failure, 2. We try to be "just like" that perfect someone and/or 3. We start to tear down the other person, many times only in our minds, so that we can feel better about ourselves.
What this Scripture in Galatians, and others like it, say to me is I am to work in my set of circumstances to the glory of God and you in yours and together it will be a blessing not only to God, but to all of those around us as well.
One day a dear friend of mine came to my home and asked if she could help in organizing my kitchen. She was a natural at organization, especially in the area of the home, and I decidedly was not. She had been in my home enough to know that my disorganization was driving me crazy and in her LOVE for me, she came to help. I knew there wasn't an ounce of pride in her as she labored with me that day explaining why she was doing what she was doing, so I could learn from her. She simply wanted to help her friend who was drowning and reach out a hand, and I truly appreciated it.
There is nothing so powerful in defeating unhealthy competition and comparison as a compassionate, gifted friend who is FOR you. It kills all those bad feelings in an instant. In God's Word to us, He has said that He has given gifts to us all for the building up of the body. Satan would love to draw our attention to comparing those gifts, instead of using them for the benefit of each other and to the glory of the One who has saved and is changing us.
Every time I think I have this unhealthy competitive attitude kicked, He, in His sweet love for me, shows me another area...like driving, or even doing Zumba Fitness 2:) So this battle is ongoing in me, but I have experienced victory...I DO NOT throw Scrabble boards around anymore!
Love to you...