women, why is it we have such difficulty following the command, “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn?" (romans 12:15).
okay, let me tweak that a bit ---
most of us are pretty good when it comes to mourning with those who mourn. we’ve got that down pat. it comes in our wiring. it comes in our wheelhouse. it just comes. we feel for each other. we feel each other’s pain and problems and pressures. we are easily empathetic. when disaster or disease strike we are on the ready with a casserole and our very best condolences. we can typically put ourselves in each other's shoes, innately knowing, if it was us, we'd certainly want a shoulder to lean on and a friend to weep with. so we come quickly, we hug tightly, and we love exceptionally our hurting friend.
but what about the friend who isn’t hurting, but is, instead, covered in the hazy glow of something beautiful or good or even great?
what about her? ---
the rejoicing friend.
the winning woman.
what about the one who isn’t doubled over in disappointment, but is dancing in some kind of divine appointment?
in my years -- almost-a-half-century-of-them-yikes -- i have watched women do a great job ministering to the broken, but turn right around and struggle with those who are seemingly blessed. i have watched the obvious reluctance in supporting each other in the victories, the accolades, the awards and the generally wonderful stuff. i almost hesitate to write these words. surely not. maybe it’s just me. maybe i’m the only woman alive who can tend to struggle when others succeed. maybe i write these words only to find out that i’m exposed: the sole woman holding the cards of petty insecurity and embarrassing envy.
maybe. but my guess is i’m not entirely alone here.
we might mourn well, but when it comes to the rejoicing part, let's face it, our ugly, human nature can, on occasion, take root and cause us not to celebrate, but instead, to accelerate toward the tendency to compare.
and it’s all fair territory ---
homes. careers. children. husbands. figures. faces. wardrobes. vacations. even our spirituality.
like … i want to be happy for her in that new beautiful house or in her next exciting endeavor; to sincerely cheer her on in her latest book deal or her child’s streak of straight A report cards; to wildly celebrate her diet success or her blossoming career achievement.
i want to do that. i even intend to ...
but behind our weak rejoicing rests something which recoils a bit. it’s our sin nature. it’s the ugly evil one who wants nothing more than to make us doubt ourselves; to doubt our own design; to, in fact, doubt our Designer. wondering, if maybe God might have been a little stingy when it came to the granting of gifts in my life. thinking, perhaps He held back a bit when it came to doling out talents or treasures for me.
is it possible, that we are actually prone to think that way?
can you see the power of satan’s whispered words?
can you feel the destructive nature of his devious little lies?
women. it’s time to stop him -- dead in his tracks. if given just an inch he will always slither his way into that ugly, little opening and leave deep his venom of envy and insecurity. he knows how we are wired. he knows where we are weak. this is the same slithery serpent who met eve in the garden -- the same persuasive snake who tempted her into longing for something more -- something more than God's perfect provision.
i’m taking part in a women’s conference this weekend. several thousands of women are gathering tonight at the wisconsin center in milwaukee for momcon 2016. alongside my friend, alexandra kuykendall, i get to speak friday morning to a group of moms and i’m thrilled. but i’m also scared. public speaking, oh goodness, let me tell you, it puts me smack dab in the middle of that uncomfortable place of insecurity. i’ll do my thing and i’m asking the Holy Spirit to help me do it well. but this conference is a place where i will have ample opportunity to compare myself to others. it occurs too naturally. it takes place too readily. i don’t even know it’s happening and then BAM there i am listening to some other woman’s well articulated words or watching the audience warmly respond. there i am enamored with her captivating personality or staring at her super cute shoes.
and i find myself comparing.
not rejoicing or joyful, but fighting off jealousy.
theodore roosevelt said, “comparison is the thief of all joy.” actually God kinda said it first in corinthians, “but when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” (2 corinthians 10:12).
without joy? without understanding? yep, that just about sums us up when we choose to meander down that nasty path of comparison. that same path where, without doubt, we will always meet up with our friends discontentment and discouragement. oh, woman, turn back. don’t travel there. tread not toward this temptation. walk away and be set free with God’s truth. you are “fearfully and wonderfully made ..." (psalm 139). dear girl, "you are (actually) made in His own image." (genesis 1:27).
with three daughters, i realize this isn’t just a grown woman’s struggle. it takes place at all ages and in all areas. i watch my girls compare themselves in the social media realm and i have to wonder how we are ever going to make it through all of this and be completely satisfied with who we are and how God made us. with the power and influence of immediate access to everyone else's life it feels like we are reaching epidemic levels in this terrible business of comparison.
and i am not sure i can offer a quick and easy fix.
but, almost exactly a year ago, i began to unpack this unrelenting issue when i agreed to gather for a long weekend with 12 women on a lake in northern idaho. we were strangers. most of us had never before met. i realize that sounds incredibly sketchy. (i know, seriously, who agrees to go to a remote lake location with total strangers for three days)? the purpose was to form a sisterhood. a group of women with a variety of talents and gifts who would be willing to come alongside each other and rejoice in one other.
and that is exactly what happened.
this group of girls -- sisters -- supporting one another has been such a powerful reminder in my life to rejoice with those who rejoice; to sincerely celebrate the small and big victories in each other's lives. because God has wired us uniquely. we don't all have the same talents or treasured gifts. but together we create a beautiful tapestry of God's glory when we use them to honor His name.
these girls in idaho; you, there in your kitchen; me, here in my hotel room ... wherever we are ... whatever God has called us to do ... we can be beautiful threads in God's grand design.
peace with our identity will never be found in aimless wanting or in envious wishing, but in worship of Him and celebration of one another.
maybe you don't have the same gifting as her. but girlfriend, believe me, you've got something else so beautiful to add. see yourself, not as makeshift, but as the masterpiece you are.
remember, my friend, the God of all creation created you!