When I told my husband about taking a break from blogging, he didn't give the enthusiastic cheer that I thought he would. Instead he told me, "Well, we'll see how long that lasts. You may need the outlet in the midst of everything else." As often happens, he's right in this case. I've had all these thoughts running around in my head this week, so I'm just going to put some of them down in this post.
Last week a missionary couple came to visit our church from France where they are serving. We started talking about books and I recommended several of my favorite books to her. At first, I didn't articulate why. After the church service, I realized that it was because each of the books made a deep impression on me.
These were the books:
Love in the Driest Season by Neely Tucker
This book made me realize how Americentric I've been in my world view and why it is important that the U.S. help countries in Africa and why we need to support missionaries there.
The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson
This book brought the Great Depression to life for me and brought to life for me what it means to "do without".
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
I enjoyed The Kite Runner, but this book (though also set in Afghanistan) is a biography rather than a fiction story like Khaled Hosseini's book. What amazed me about this story was the absence of God. Yes, the woman survived under the Taliban and took care of her family.
I realized that I recommended these books to her because she is a missionary who visits many churches with her husband to raise financial support. God used each of these books to help me understand why missions was important by helping me see life from different perspectives without God. I have assumed that it is difficult at times for missionaries to explain to some Christians why missions matters.
I was raised to compare myself with others. In L.A., people judge you by a. your clothes and b. your car. I remember my dad constantly comparing himself to others, our family to others, and me to others. My dad did this because it was his way of making himself feel better about who he was--by feeling that he was better than other people. This thinking has been ingrained in my head. I have to constantly fight it, but sometimes that thinking creeps in at unexpected moments. This morning our pastor spoke about how God uses our humiliation so that we can understand others.
One of the deepest humiliations that I've faced in my life has been the condescension of many Army officers and their wives during my husband's time in the military. Not all officers and their wives treated us this way, but some did. It felt horrible to have people look down on my husband and sometimes me simply because my husband was enlisted. It was one of the things I most looked forward to leaving behind when my husband got out of the Army. This past year, though, I faced this again. Last night I realized that now when I tell people my husband was in the Army for 8 years I don't say that he was enlisted. This isn't because I'm not proud of him--I am deeply. It is because I don't want people to make snap judgments about him or me if they or family members were officers and not enlisted servicemen. Last night, I had the chance to talk to an officers wife. Strangely enough I mentioned to her that my husband was in for 8 years and was enlisted. We went on to have a great discussion about the military culture and the problems the separation of officers and enlisted has created. It has created a social culture in which officers and their wives often consider themselves better than folks who are enlisted. What is ironic is that they are often less educated and skilled than the enlisted folks they look down upon. The other wife and I pondered and she has puzzled as to why this culture is this way. I told her that I think it all comes back to the desire to feel good about ones self. If a person compares him or herself to others in a way that makes them look better than the other person, then they feel good--they feel validated. That's why we compare ourselves. It's usually because we want to feel better about ourselves by way of pride. It's a trap. It's not really true. We are valuable because God loves us--not because of anything we've done or can do. We can get caught in social situations and social cultures though that tell us that our value is because of what we do or because of our position. God used my humiliation to help me connect with the woman I talked to last night--to encourage her and hopefully shed some light on why things are the way they are.
Today though, that comparison thing--well, it crept right back in. Where I live now, people are not judged by their cars and clothes, but on their houses. For the past months we've been in the process of buying a home about 20 minutes away from where we lived. It's closer to our church and near our friends. We are so excited. But, I continually have to remind myself that what God is giving us is better than other options. I should rephrase that. Most of the time I am content and secure in trusting God in this blessing. I am very thankful for the home that we are hoping to move into next Saturday. But, there are times when the lies creep in. The lie that I have to put another house down--for whatever reason--in order to feel better about the choice we're making with this house. It is a lie. The truth is that there is a constant temptation to compare ourselves. We have to resist.
When we don't, we do damage to ourselves and others by perpetuating the cycle of comparison.
When I don't, I do damage to myself and others by perpetuation the cycle of comparison.
Our pastor said something yesterday in his sermon that struck me. He said that the bar of others is the easiest one to measure ourselves by. We compare ourselves to others so that we figure out if we're good enough.
I realized early on when we put the offer in on this house that it was the right house for my family because as much as I love it it is not what our culture sets forth as most important when purchasing a home. Our culture says bigger is better -- newer is better. But, what really matters most is what God has for us--not what the world would tell us we should have.
I wrote much of this post two weeks ago. This morning it holds a little different message for me. We did move into our new home 9 days ago. It has been a stressful, work filled 9 days. There has been so much more work to do than we expected. I keep reminding myself of the assurances and ways that the Lord confirmed over the past month that this was the house he had for us. My good friend Jenny asked me if I had started to see the good things that God has for us in this house. So, I've started to look for them. Rather than focusing any attention on comparing this house with another, I'm trying to simply see the blessings in this house.
So, those are my incomplete ponderings this morning...