Monday, October 3, 2011

Optimist Challenge Day 9

Stop playing the comparison game, and stop thinking that you do not measure up.

2 Corinthians 10:12 Oh, don’t worry; we wouldn’t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant! (NLT)

Skinny bodies. Perfect hair. Huge homes. Fancy cars. Organized play dates. Prada shoes. Swimming pools. Country clubs. Expensive jewelry. Perfect marriages. Well behaved kids. Perfect moms. Submissive wives.

Preachers. Pastors. Reverends. Priests. CEOs. Executives. Professionals. Advanced careers. Eloquent speakers. Successful ministries. Godly bible study teachers.

Seemingly perfect lives. Seemingly perfect people.

Maybe you have fought a losing battle to try to measure up to these "role models".  And just maybe, you found yourself in the aftermath, with a heart full of insecurities and self-doubt.

When we compare ourselves to people, accomplishments or titles that we look up to, or wish that we were more like someone else in a certain way, or assume that someone we know has it all together and we don't ..... the result is a chronic attack of "stinkin thinkin".

A few years ago, my daughter who was 12 years old at the time, asked to be in a community beauty pageant. I have never been a big proponent of beauty pageants for several personal reasons, so my girls had never been involved with them. But after much begging and pleading, I caved in to the pressure, and signed off on the form for her to participate.

Although I was doing it against my better judgement, I hoped it would simply be a good time with her friends, a reason to get all fancied up, and maybe even a little morale booster - but I could not have been more wrong.

On the day of the pageant, my little girl was dressed in a royal blue tea length dress, with cascading ruffles down to the knees, a fitted waistline, and lots and lots of sequins.

She wore dainty, clear Cinderella slippers with shiny sparkles across the toes. Her beautiful golden hair that had been kissed by the sun, hung in bouncy locks down her back, looking much like something off of a Pantene commercial.  Through my proud-mommy eyes, she was absolutely, stunningly beautiful. And I could tell by her demeanor, that she felt beautiful as well.

When we arrived at the auditorium an hour before the pageant, she hopped out of the car, flipping her hair back in an "I am all that" kind of way, and disappeared into the building, beaming with confidence and wearing a big smile as she waved goodbye.

I went inside and found a seat near the front. Yet, before the pageant could begin, I spotted her peeking out from behind the curtain.

Moments later, she began to slowly make her way across the aisles, with eyes fixated on me. I noticed that her glow of radiance and self worth had been replaced by a cloud of discouragement and sadness. As she got closer, I also noticed that the sparkle in her eye was no longer from the flashes of sequins, but from a few little tears that she was desperately trying not to shed.

Then she uttered the words that would forever break my heart.

"Mommy, all the girls are wearing full length gowns, and I am only wearing a tea length gown. And I look so ugly. I will never win."

My heart broke into a million pieces. My first thought was, "bad, bad mommy! I should have bought her a better dress!" But my second thought was, that this was exactly why I did not want her in a pageant where she would be judged on looks alone. A competition based solely on the opinions of others, and where a person's character and faith were unimportant.

I spent the next few minutes wiping her tears and trying to reassure her of how beautiful she was, inside and out. She regained her composure, and a sprinkle of confidence, and managed to find her sweet little smile again. But as she headed back to the stage, my spirit was convicted with God's truth.

Psalm 139: 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

After the pageant was over and we had returned home, I sat down to talk with my daughter about her value in God's eyes, instead of the eyes of people. We talked about how she was fearfully and wonderfully made, even if she didn't measure up to someone else's standards, or even her own.

And most importantly, we discussed the dangers of comparing ourselves to others, and how our value, and our real beauty, comes from Christ alone.

She did not win a blue ribbon that day, but she won something much more important  - a valuable lesson about self-worth and inner confidence that would stay in her heart for years to come.

Even as grown women, we often still feel like that timid, awkward, middle-school girl at a beauty pageant. We look around and make our own assessments of others, while holding ourselves up to measuring sticks that we were never meant to use. The end result, is that we determine we really don't measure up to everyone else, just like my daughter did.

In fact, such a situation happened to me just this past weekend. I had traveled to Hartford, Connecticut to speak at the Iron Sharpens Iron Northeast Women's Conference, and was so thrilled to be invited to be a part of such an awesome event. But as I sat in the lobby early on Saturday morning, waiting for my transportation to arrive, some of the other speakers for the conference began to congregate.

I was sitting in the hotel lobby minding my own business, reading over my notes for my speaking session, when a serious case of insecurity swept in out of nowhere. As I eyed these ladies from across the room, I found myself thinking how nice they looked, how pretty their hair was, how professional they seemed. I began wondering what sessions they were leading.... and if they would be better than mine..... if they were better speakers.... if they were more successful... and so on.

Before I knew it,  the devil just swooped down and began pecking inferiorities  right into my brain!

I was instantly convicted, and realized what I was doing - especially since the dangers of comparison was one of the main things that I was speaking about later that morning!

I had to chuckle at myself,  then pray, and refocus on the message that God had given me to share that day.  Had I remained focused on my insecurities and "stinkin thinkin",  the enemy's tactics and lies would have distracted me from experiencing God's best that day.

My little slip up is just a recent example of how quickly and easily we can get pulled into the comparison trap.  Every day we are faced with the opportunity to compare ourselves to people at work, school, in our neighborhood or community, and even in our churches and other ministries. We assume they are better, smarter, and more capable, at everything, and that we have nothing of value to offer.

If we aren't careful, that "stinkin thinkin" will become more than just an occasional twinge of jealously or lack of self worth, but eventually morph into a negative outlook about ourselves.

This faulty line of thinking causes us to fail to recognize and remember that we are a whole, complete and beautiful child of God. It causes us to forget that He formed us in the womb, exactly as we were supposed to be in every way.

Unique. Valued. Gifted. Usable. Precious. Beautiful.

Not perfect - but fearfully and wonderfully made - on purpose - for a reason.

We have a major enemy waging war against our souls every day. An enemy who loves nothing more than to make us feel worthless, inferior, lacking value and incapable of doing anything good for anybody, much less a sovereign and holy God.

It takes great faith and courage to admit that we are not perfect, but wonderfully made.  It takes even greater faith to see ourselves and our value through the eyes of the One who created us, rather than the eyes that are looking back at us in the mirror every day.

Day Nine Challenge Activity: Stop playing the comparison game, and stop thinking that you do not measure up.

Gods grace is sufficient. The blood of the lamb has cleansed our souls and made us white as snow - but we have to believe it, to live it.

If you have been practicing the art of self condemnation, ask God to help you break the addiction of being down on yourself.

Pray for the supernatural ability to be able to see yourself through His eyes, and not what you see in the mirror. Ask Him for an acute awareness of when you are dabbling in the dangerous game of comparison, and to redirect your thoughts to positive things.

Consider making a list of all of your positive traits,attributes, talents and spiritual gifts. Allow God to guide your mind to all the reasons that make you wonderful.

Read over these verses and tuck them into your heart, letting them serve as reminders of how valuable you are to your heavenly Father.

Psalm 139:13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.

1 Corinthians 3:16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?

Luke 12:7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Matthews 6:26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Optimist Challenge Day 9SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


Laura said...

Oh, how I needed this message today!! Thank you Tracie, for your words and your ministry.

In Christ,

Anonymous said...

This may be the hardest challenge you've given us yet.....

Raspberrymama said...

These are powerful words and so very true. It is the desire of my heart for my daughters to learn this early on in their life.

Seeing ourselves and our value through the eyes of our loving creator is life-changing. When we begin to understand the depth of His love for us on a personal level we are set free to love others like never before!

Thank you for the reminder!
Many Blessings,

cupcake said...

Thank you for the reminder!

Joanna said...

I have always struggled with perfectionism as I compared myself to others. While I think this "stinkin' thinkin'" is especially prevalent among women, the truths are things that I try to regularly point out to my young boys, as I will my infant daughter as she grows. God made us perfectly, for His purpose, and we should certainly never second guess His master design!

Janine said...

Yes, I must admit that this is one area that I still struggle with. I often feel I am surrounded by perfect moms, perfect wives, perfect bodies, etc..... and then there is me. I know that I am only seeing the perfect front that so many people put up.... but it looks so real! Of course, that is just Satan trying to make me believe that I am failing in all these areas. I know the truth... that I am wonderfully made and have had special qualities that God gave me that make me unique and of course anything that God makes is beautiful and valuable. I need to pray more intentionally for the wisdom to see my value (and everyone's) through God's eyes and not give in to the temptation to see value through the world's eyes. Thank you for your devotion and the reminder to stop making these defeating comparisons. I need to keep my eyes looking upward and listen to the "words of truth" from our Lord. Amen to that!

Pam said...

"Not perfect - but fearfully and wonderfully made - on purpose - for a reason." I needed to hear this message today, too. Thank you for sharing your heart in this Optimist Challenge. It is helping me so much!

Sweet Blessings,

Jewels said...

Wow! What a challenge Day 9 is for me.I can not express enough of how pertinent this message was for me.
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I needed this as well because I too let Satan do a number on me at times. I recently attended a wedding and before hand had went out and bought a new dress and shoes and thought I looked really pretty. As soon as I arrived at the church I saw other ladies who I felt like had prettier dresses and hair etc. Needless to say, a worthless feeling came over me. It took a little while but I got over it reminding myself of who I belong to and how valuable I am to Him!

Mary S. said...

Oh how I needed this last week. Had to go to an event with my husband, and all I could do was think about how terrible I would look. The stinkin thinkin truly had me in its grip. Got to the event and there was nothing for me to fear. Had made myself and my husband miserable. Thanks for your great words!

Debbie C said...

Great post! I met a young lady who had succumbed to "stinking thinking". Her self esteem was in the tank. Our Jr. Mission dept. is in the middle of putting together a fashion show titled after "One Night With The King": the story of Esther. The young lady was was encouraged to participate in hopes of lifting her spirit. Obviously the atmosphere is not one of competition however, she seems to have come into her own! She has realized that she is in fact, fearfully and wonderfully made! That although this experience is about the outer "man", she has come to terms with her inner beauty which comes from her Spirit. She has such a wow factor happening for her now. Bless His name!

Anonymous said...

But often time I am made to feel like I don't belong. I don't belong to this Church becuase I am doing it all wrong. I said the wrong thing. I ate the wrong way. I brought the wrong item. I feel like I shouldn't go there anymore if I am so wrong. Am I wrong? Shouldn't I find a place where I am not judged and I am accapted the way I am? If I wore a short dress when everyone else knew to wear the long dress I would turn around and run out and never go back because I feel like I was wrong again. I don't belong here.