It's hard not to compare. When we compare, we judge. Either ourselves or those we're comparing ourselves to. We do it all the time, and yet when we compare we miss out on what God wants to do in us and through us alone.
My journey is not yours. Yours isn't mine. There are tools we have and lessons we've learned that can be shared, but those lessons and tools cannot be a substitute for our own process.
I struggle with comparing. I've read all the books I can think to read, studied all the studies I can think to explore, memorized helpful statements and worked diligently to exchange my thoughts for God's Word. Things that others swear were the keys to their healing, recovery, freedom, I've put into practice. Each has been helpful, but only so much. Things that led to giant strides in their relationship with the Lord and blessing in life has felt more like a shuffle in mine if there's any movement at all.
As the world and my loved ones move forward in wisdom, joy, and peace, I start the new year realizing I am not nearly as far along as I hoped to be. I'd done what I know to never do: I put expectations on myself. I called them goals, dreams, visions... put deadlines to them and when the new year began I looked around and realized things didn't look at all like I hoped. In fact, I'm deeper in the unknown and more uncertain than I was a year ago.
My victories look something like this:
An event happens, or I consider what the next step is in my life, and fear, anxiety, and doubt hit me like a giant wave. Everything seems impossible. I'm swept away by it, powerless to stop it or to control the direction I'm being carried. Like an ocean wave, all I can do is keep my head above water. On the surface I smile and keep myself composed because I've learned people don't want to see pain they can't alleviate or a problem they can't fix. Victory happens when I can feel my heart being tossed and thrown about, sometimes feeling as if I'm drowning, and I can think clearly enough to thank God for what's true.
"Father I thank you for being a good Father. Thank you for your love and patience with me. Thank you for saving me. Thank you for the place you've set aside and are preparing for me in heaven. Thank you for the peace you give in Jesus Christ. Thank you for the wholeness I have in you as your daughter and bride. Thank you for persevering in teaching me what these things mean. Thank you that this is true regardless of how I feel. Thank you for guiding my steps and for always keeping me in the palm of your hand. Thank you..."
Victory is when I can declare these things even as I tremble. Victory is when I know these things are true, even as the tears flow. Victory is when I cling to the robe of the One who loves me, even when I don't have the strength to stand. Victory is when all I can say is, "I don't know" to every question asked about my life, my future, my goals and dreams, and "I know God loves me," to the question about what it is I DO know.
I watch my loved ones on their journey with the Lord and see and hear how confident they are, how much faith they have, how sure they are of God's love for them and that He has a plan for their life. I hear the rest in their voice. I hear the strength of testimonies in their simple statement, "God's got a plan." I look back at my own journey and all I can think is it's a miracle I've made it this far... but for what?
Sometimes the journey can feel like crawling out of a sewer only to find yourself in a desert. A cup of water is handed to you, a promise of an oasis, only to reach an ocean as desolate as the cracked and parched earth you were on. You learn to be grateful for things others take for granted. A view. A conversation. A single note of music. A butterfly. Sand between your toes. Shade to sit under. Even if these things are but for a moment. Words like "abundance" and "hope" and "immeasurably more" are like discussing a distant planet. You know it exists because of what others have said, but aren't sure you'll ever experience it yourself.
As I wrestled with what to share today, a day in which getting out of bed, reading the Bible, and getting to work on time felt like enormous feats, God brought to mind a passage in the gospel of John.
Peter is sitting with Jesus before he ascends into heaven and he looks at Jesus' other apostle, John. "When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, 'Lord, what about this man?' Jesus said to him, 'If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!'" (John 21:21-22, ESV).
Our journey with God is not for us to compare. My journey is not yours. Your journey isn't mine. God calls us to our own path, and rather than judge one another, or compare ourselves to each other, we're called to love and be love to each other. "You follow me!" Jesus told Peter. "Don't get distracted or discouraged by what your brothers or sisters are doing. Keep your eyes on me."
Sometimes this is lonely. It doesn't mean we don't seek advice or guidance from people who know and love Jesus. Their tools, experiences and insight can help us on our own journey, but we can't expect our walk to look like theirs. We can't expect to make the same decisions and expect the same outcomes. We can only follow Jesus.
My friend, if your new year is starting out less than "new" and "fresh" like you hoped, you're not alone. If your new year is feeling as weighed and difficult as last year, if you're still struggling to see the light and feel like you're falling behind the rest of the world that seems to be leaping forward, know that it's going to be okay.
You don't need to know the future, or even what's happening in the present. You don't need to know how things are going to work out or if they are. You only need to know what's true. Rest in the truth. Even if rest just looks like falling into a puddle of tears like I might as soon as I finish this post. I'm grabbing hold of truth today, and truth has a name.
How about you?