It had been a long, stressful week and I was most excited to get out of the office and away from my work for a night of live music and fun. I grabbed my first cocktail at the bar as the opening band began belting out their tunes, welcoming the weekend. I had noticed her from the bar – a very striking woman with shoulder-length blonde hair, huge “baby blue” eyes like George would say and a slim, well taken care of shape. She smiled and laughed with her friends and looked to be just a happy person. I grabbed my cocktail from the bartender and made my way back to the open area I had chosen to stand for the concert and on the way got stopped by a former Austin acquaintance. We exchanged “current life” stories and caught up on the happenings in and around us and as I turned to leave, there she was. She grabbed my arm and said “Jenny, right?”
“Yes,” I said, “ that is me, how are you?”
“Well, she said. Thanks for asking. I think I know you, you’re from Floresville, right?”
“No,” I said. You must have me mistaken for someone else. I am from Seguin.”
“But wait.. I know I know you… I just can’t place it. Did you DATE someone from Floresville? YES, that’s it,” she said… you are (__name withheld for privacy__)’s ex-girlfriend.” GREAAATT … here we go, I thought. (Insert face-palm GIF here). I was certain my hope for a fun drama-free night out was being crushed by the second as she “remembered” how she knew me. “Yes,” I said. “That is my ex-boyfriend from a long time ago. He is married with multiple children.” And then I stood there and braced myself for her to give me a piece of her mind. Instead, she gave me a piece of her heart. She grabbed my hand and held it and spoke words of life into me.
“You are just such an absolutely beautiful soul, Jenny. I know you don’t “know” me, per se, but we all know each other through our friend groups and I am good friends with so many of your friends and our paths have crossed a million times without you even knowing. I just want you to know what a beautiful person I think you are – inside and out- and how much I look up to you as a woman. You are an inspiration to me and so many others and I just love the person I know you are without even knowing you. You exude a heart of grace and love and it is just amazing. I’ve seen how you love and support your friends and the kind of women you are to others, even those who don’t deserve your kindness.”
Wow. As tears welled up in my eyes and I stood there speechless, I know she sensed it in my trembling hand and watering eyes. Every part of me wanted to grab this absolute stranger at the bar and hug her and just tell her thank you for being REAL! As I composed myself, the first thought on my mind was remorse that I didn’t have that “impromptu pep talk” recorded for one of the surely unconquerable days that were ahead. Words like that could pull ANYONE out of the doldrums of a horrible day into smiles and happiness. “Thank you… from the bottom of my heart. Not for the words you spoke, although those are absolutely beautiful and amazing and I will treasure them forever; but for having a heart of Jesus not to judge me by the actions or “stories” you heard, witnessed or were fed from the past that you knew me by and for speaking life into me with your open heart of grace. People like you are incredibly rare. And I will remember this very moment and this very day for a long time to come.” She walked off back to her group and me to my little spot I had dug in the crushed granite by myself to partake in the rest of the music and people-watching for the night, but the mood she ignited in me wouldn’t leave me for at least a few days. And here it re-surfaces again as the subject of this blog.
“Comparison is the thief of joy,” Theodore Roosevelt wrote. It’s a quote we all have heard and know well, but it is often something we all struggle with – myself included. As a society and gender we are barraged with images of perfection. Beautiful, pencil-thin supermodels airbrushed to flawless. Filters that can make ANY person have perfect skin, bigger eyes, whiter teeth… you name it, there’s an app for it. I would be casting stones if I didn’t say this life of comparison was/is something I don’t struggle with. Through age and faith, I have grown much stronger in fighting it, but it still creeps in when I am at my weakest. That week I feel fat.. or two ugly zits pop up on my face right before a big presentation. Recognizing your flaws and faults is 90% of the battle, they say, but unfortunately, so many in the world don’t even make it that far.
Pride. It’s something we as Texans have a lot of. Too much probably. It is the nagging little voice that tells us “you better not let that girl pass you,” while running our 5K. It’s the stubbornness reminding us NOT to text that ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, or even ex-friend, that we know is struggling like we are because then we would be “the weak one.” Most of all, it is the reason we, as a society, can’t lift others up – we just continue to compare and figure out what we are better at than the next human, and then velocify that over every inadequacy we have. “Great hair? Yea well she is dumber than a box of rocks.” Why must we judge someone we don’t even know because our thieve of joy tells us we might not be quite as good at said quality/feature/talent? Like the well-known quote says “A flower does not compete with the one next to it. It just blooms.” Yet we choose not to “bloom” or to mention/call out/glorify/speak life into other people’s talents because it would make us seem “less.” Wrong. In the moment that young lady stepped out in faith and grace and approached a complete stranger at a concert to tell her (me) amazing, complimentary, loving things, she kicked pride and comparison in the face and told it to go wash it’s face. Yet we don’t do that. We scroll through our comparison log we call Facebook and pit everyone’s highlight reel with our behind the scenes battles. We struggle to put on makeup for a day and done our best moo-moo to the grocery store only to make eyes at the perfectly put together Mom who just came from church dressed like a million bucks looking like straight fire. Women of Christ, sisters… we have GOT TO stop the madness. If there is any part of your mind that believes you are superior to another human, may I remind you of the existence of God…. And you are not Him. Judgment is reserved for Him and Him alone, and though we might reserve the right to CHOOSE whom we are friends with, hang out with, spend our valuable time with, etc, nowhere in the Bible does it say we are free to judge another human because they sin differently than us – and definitely not because they put on more MAC than us or wear clothes we think is highly inappropriate. Opinion versus judgment.
I think in closing it is paramount to point out the beauty and magnitude of speaking life into other humans… women or men. We are all so worried that giving another person a genuine compliment is robbing ourselves of some confidence we might need to save up for later. We hoard that confidence stuff like it is precious bits of gold meant to make our lives better, happier, more vivacious… when in reality, if we would just the girl at the bar, the true JOY we would feel from making someone’s day would be all the feel-good pill we needed. We don’t need MORE self-gratitude, we need more gifted joy. We don’t need more competition, we need more people speaking life into those who excel at something and humbly asking for tips on how to make themselves better at said gift. God doesn’t want perfection, he wants perfect confession of our brokenness, our inadequacies, our sins. Why do you think He created a world of humans NOTHING ALIKE and all lacking in something He gifted to another person who’s path they will cross? Perfection wasn’t part of the plan… competition wasn’t part of the plan. Learning and growing from others, speaking life into existence through compliments of love, grace, beauty, talent… THAT was part of the plan. How incredibly boring of a world would it be if we were all great swimmers? All great at perfectly shaped eyebrows? All runners? All talented fishermen or hunters? BOOORINNGG! Yet we are all joined together in this world to somehow co-exist until He calls us to be back with Him and we make each day brutally sinful and life-sucking by surfing “the highlight reel” and picking new people to dislike because of their perfect bodies, great teeth, abundant success? Don’t feel alone. In the last few days since that conversation I have gone over every “bitchy” thing I have done to another woman – every judgment I made on someone who turned out to be one of the coolest humans I knew once I put my pride on the table and opened my heart. She struck a cord in me that reminded me of something that doesn’t get addressed often. She excited a passion in me to talk to God MORE about this eternal battle we all face. She opened past wounds of pain from women (and men) who did me wrong and I have continued to use them as a basis for judgment of people “like them,” often without even giving the ‘offender’ a chance to be different. Now, whatever your personal battles with those who have personally wronged you or done things to you to make you form a decision or opinion of them – I am NOT here to change that. The battle to forgive someone who has wronged you is between you and God; but may I remind you that often the only person who truly suffers from housing anger and hostility from wrongdoings is not the offender, but the offended. The stronger person is always the one who can make peace with the apology they never received.
Now, as we always do, we will close in prayer. I invite you to read the one from my heart and then take a moment to form your own talk with God in a perfectly imperfect confession of what might be on your heart after reading this. Remember, He will NEVER judge you for the sins and confessions you bring to him with a thirst for forgiveness. After all, He exist solely because we could never make it without his perfection.
Lord, this is a tough world we are in today. I know you never envisioned it this way… a people hellbent on trying every bit of your existence by competing to no end, choosing words of hate and hurt instead of speaking love and life into each other. It must pain your heart to see your children hurling insults at each other instead of lifting one another up. God we realize that life is often troubled and we often feel “wronged” by others, but today and everyday please help us to realize that revenge is yours and our only job is to keep the peace and know that you will right all wrongs in your perfect timing. Lord helps us to understand that acknowledging our faults and inadequacies does not make us inferior or flawed beyond your perfect love or the love of the hearts you have designed to be part of our lives. May you enter our hearts and minds DAILY and meet our needs DAILY to remind us to act as you would in the situations that present themselves in our lives. Lord give us courage and strength to leave pride at the doorstep and bring only love and peace and grace into your house. Remind us, God, that the words we might be thinking, but afraid to say could be the difference in someone’s day, or, better yet, their life. Convince us with hearts full of love like your son Jesus, that we too should proliferate goodness and love and kindness – not competition and defensiveness and pride. As our worst days rise up to meet us, Lord, helps us to always remember that the world is a much better place when we give people a peace of our hearts instead of a piece of our minds.