03 May Freedom from Competition
Trust me, you do not want to be around my family on game night. Only the strong survive, my friends. This competitiveness is simultaneously one of the most endearing and exasperating characteristics of my family. Whether its poker, charades, Monopoly, Risk, Balderdash, or Settlers of Catan, we take it seriously. Very seriously. I learned to put on my game face and determine my strategy at a young age, because my family just doesn’t mess around.
Whether it’s from these family game nights or my nature, I have always had a competitive streak in me. My mom used to playfully tease me by saying that I was a sneaky fighter. I can seem sweet on the outside, but I’m trying to underhandedly turn things in my favor behind the scenes. From the world’s perspective, this seems rather shrewd, doesn’t it? Uphold your good reputation while ruthlessly undermining the competition to reach the top. Sadly, I think that’s how a lot of women operate.
I can’t speak for everyone, but one of my chief sins is the desire to appear kind, courteous, and selfless on the outside while comparison and competition lurk in the shadows of my mind. It’s quite contradictory and twisted when I think about it; I want others to feel encouraged and nurtured by me, and in turn, I want them to admire and think highly of me. I want others to be honored, but only if I can be more highly honored.
“I can’t speak for everyone, but one of my chief sins is the desire to appear kind, courteous, and selfless on the outside while comparison and competition lurk in the shadows of my mind.”
The truth I’ve discovered is that this tendency enslaves us. It does this by holding us back from the identity we now have as free daughters in Christ. When I believe that I must compete and outdo others to be accepted and earn my keep, I am thinking like a slave, am I not? I am forgetting that that’s not who I am anymore.
But when I believe that I am already a loved and valued member of the family and kingdom of God, I am thinking like a free woman. I can nurture others without needing or expecting them to honor and admire me. There is no payment necessary, and I can nurture others as a free gift, just like Christ’s love. I’m no longer at war with my brothers and sisters, trying to be the best Christian (or wife, or writer, or mother, etc.), but I am able walk this walk of faith alongside them. As John Steinback said in East of Eden, “Now that I don’t have to be perfect, I can be good.”
So why can’t I simply believe that and act upon it? Why do I still compare myself to my husband, my coworkers, my friends, my siblings, and even celebrities?
I can relate to Paul in Romans when he says, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” We still struggle in this way because we are still in battle. God has not yet restored all things, and for now, evil lies close at hand.
“But when I believe that I am already a loved and valued member of the family and kingdom of God, I am thinking like a free woman.”
Who will save us from our flesh? Who will save us from this inability to do what we truly desire? Paul answers this very question with, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”
So after first and foremost reminding us that we are justified in Christ, Paul then implies that in our flesh, we can do nothing other than serve the law of sin. But in using our minds, only when they have been renewed, instructed, and transformed by the gospel, we can live in the Spirit. Our minds, then, must daily remember and experience salvation. They must be continually told the story of gospel, and thus be cleansed and renewed. They must be set on the Spirit, which is life and peace!
Each morning when I wake up, I must turn to Christ first. The devil sits waiting to pounce when my mind is at this most vulnerable moment of the day. I’ll be honest with you and say that dwelling on Christ from the moment I wake up takes a lot of discipline, and it looks different for everyone. There have been times when the first thing I do in order to set my mind on the Spirit is recite scripture in my mind before I even get up, or I’ll meditate and not allow myself to check my phone, or I’ll pray. Either way, discovering how to wake up and remember my identity as God’s beloved has been essential to fighting comparison for me.
Talk to your Father and your community and ask them to help you get creative with strategies to fight comparison. Make reading His Word a daily habit, highlight and memorize His promises to you in His Word, pray for yourself and those to whom you tend to compare yourself, write down and remember each victory, ask your community to hold you accountable, ask your community to pray for you, even if it doesn’t feel genuine at first, practice rejoicing with your friends in their victories, and pray that God would continue to give you a nurturing heart. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Our minds are renewed when we read God’s Word, which affects how we interact with and perceive the world around us. In light of that truth, do you understand the importance of spending daily time reading and meditating on scripture?