I really need to be more active, and I know it. I stay very "busy," but that's not the same as exercising for good health. While we were at the beach I took the opportunity to go for a bike ride one morning. I'm sure I was smiling, because it felt really good. Except for the uncomfortable seat (I want one of those wide "Granny" seats) the bike felt great, the trail was perfect, the weather warm but inviting, and the scenery exhilarating. I found myself making resolutions to bike more often at home, take time to exercise, and set some new patterns.
Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a flash of color shot past me in a swath of red and yellow and black, accompanied by a rhythmic sound like a well tuned army unit. I refocused in time to catch a glimpse of a rock solid bum in shiny black biking shorts flashing past and well ahead of me, disappearing into the distance. Show off! The comparison was too much. My smile melted like good hair on a humid day, and inwardly I told myself, "Forget it. Turn this bike around. No matter how much I ride around taking in the scenery, I'm never going to be like the toned machine that just passed me by."
Comparison is a quick way to kill our confidence! Instead of staying focused on our uniqueness and on the distinctions of our circumstances, we get thrown off track by the sight of someone else appearing to be something more or better than we think we are. Paul must've dealt with temptation to compare. After all, he was the apostle who had a history as a Christian killer; he hadn't experienced what the apostles did during Christ's earthly ministry. If they had inside jokes or favorite memories, he was left out. I imagine he might've wrestled with comparing himself to the "others" at times, even questioning if God had the right man when He chose Paul to carry His light to the Gentiles.
Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.
Paul accepted that his circumstances were uniquely assigned to him, and his life was meant to glorify Christ in its own distinct way. He didn't whine about not having a wife like Aquila, or not being at Pentecost like Peter, not being known for encouragement like Barnabas, or not having a face that shone as an angel like Stephen. He saw his own life through the lens of God's bigger plan, and that gave him the kind of confidence that allowed him to write from his prison cell, "I will continue to rejoice."
I want that kind of confidence, that kind of peace. Don't you? If we do, we have to let go of comparisons and reclaim the assurance that our path is the best for us. So I'll get back on my bike and take in the scenery, regardless of what flashes by me. ;) What's harder ... when I go to my conference this weekend, I need to thank God for who He made me to be and for what He gives me in life. That means that when articulate speakers, great manuscripts, passionate women, and put together outfits (in red, yellow, and black of course) whiz past me on the "ministry trail" in the next few days ;) I need to pray I will be the best "me" God made me to be and will make the most of any opportunity to make Christ known and to lift others up. It glorifies the God we love when we refuse to compare and be discontent, and it frees us up to keep on riding and taking in the scenery.
Blessings from someone who is not like you ;)