I am one of those organized and creative people who have the appearance of having it all together. I have a friend who has said to me, “I sometimes stop and think ‘What would Julia do?'” Sometimes she thinks our kids have a much more stable childhood than her kids. The thing is – I’m not naturally a lot of fun. I don’t spontaneously break out the finger paints or bubbles. I schedule unstructured time. Yes, there’s irony in that.
My sweet friend, on the other hand, is such a spontaneous and fun person. Her personality is one of light and freedom and playfulness. Yet she thinks and feels deeply – and has such wisdom and insight! I often think her kids have a more delightful childhood than mine. There are a lot of times I ask myself, “What would she do?”
The trouble I have in asking this question is that it misdirects a true desire to do what will honor Jesus. Instead of comparing myself to him, I start looking at other women and thinking I should be like them. Scripture only ever calls me to be an imitator of Christ – to become more and more Christlike.
In 2 Corinthians 10: 12, Paul writes, “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” [ESV, emphasis mine.] In context, he’s defending his ministry against those who would discredit him based upon horizontal comparisons.
I do that!
I discredit my own calling and influence by comparing myself – my gifts, talents, personality, appearance, and even my calling – to others. Horizontal comparison robs me of faith, replacing it with feelings of failure. Comparison leads to condemnation, and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1).
This is the danger of trying to keep up with the Joneses.
When I focus on imitating Christ (instead of other Christians), I choose significance over shame. I gain an understanding of what Christ can do in and through me because he created me for these good works (Ephesians 2:10). That’s grace. Grace to dignify me with a specific calling and the gifts necessary to accomplish it. It is grace to meet life with grace.
I want to live grace. I want to become more and more like Christ and like the woman he created me to be – to reflect the character of God rather than the actions of the women I admire.
Living grace starts by seeking to understand who I am uniquely created to be. I must look honestly at the gifts and passions God has given me, the home in which I live, the people with whom I share it, and the resources with which I have to work… all these things inform my understanding of my calling. All these things are unique to me and define the ministry God has given me. It may look a lot different than the ministry God has given to you.
Your gifts, your interests, your house, your neighborhood, your church, your kids, your husband, your income, your extended family… all these are unique to you. God has gifted and placed you with precision. He made you and has called you to different works than he has called me. Maybe today it’s time to stop looking at what and how other women are doing, and start asking, “This is who I am and where God has placed me, how will I live his grace today?”