Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Comparison Game

In the comparison game, no one ever really wins. If I come out feeling better than, it only feeds an unhealthy pride. If I come out feeling less than, discouragement and self-pity are right around the corner. Either outcome brings greater bondage, not greater freedom. Neither outcome brings me closer to the heart of Jesus. Knowing this first-hand, why am I so quick to slip into this deadly game again and again? This morning I found myself in the familiar struggle…
Shawn and I have been trying (unsuccessfully so far) to conceive a second child for a year’s time now. We tried two years for Benjamin. The disappointments of those two years were very painful. The disappointments of this last year have been as well. Then, a few days ago I had an unexpected and frightening attack of the same nature as the gall bladder attacks I was suffering from prior to my surgery last October. I didn’t think that was even possible, but there I was getting sick in the bathroom and screaming in agonizing pain on the floor while Shawn raced to get Benjamin ready so he could drive me to the ER. It also happened to be the day that my menstrual cycle was scheduled to start, so before I could be treated, they had to run a pregnancy test. I wrestled back and forth with my emotions as we waited for the results. I so long to be pregnant again, but I also wanted to be able to take some pain medicine and have the CT scan run on my stomach to find out what in the world was going on with my body. The results were negative, and the medical staff continued in treating me. The CT scan revealed no problems with my appendix (one of the initial fears) and no evidence of stones in the duct connecting my liver to my intestine. The ER doctor concluded that I must have a build-up of “sludge” (a highly medical term I know) in the duct from my liver to my intestines, which actually consists of several microscopic stones. So, I was instructed to continue a low-fat diet, take the pain medicine left over from my surgery as necessary, and call my surgeon on Monday (tomorrow). He can look at the results of my CT scan and decide what steps need to be taken next. Sigh…

This morning the disappointment of another false pregnancy test, coupled with the unexpected medical complications was really weighing on my heart. Before I knew it, I was playing the comparison game. Why do so many women, who may not even be trying to get pregnant, conceive so easily while we continue to try month after month? Why do so many women give birth to healthy baby after healthy baby when our son has had so many complications? Why am I fast approaching my 30th birthday with only one child when there are so many women younger than me who already have multiple children? Why am I having the medical complications I do when I’m living a healthier lifestyle than many of the people around me? It appears to be only another road block in my desire to conceive. What about the countless unborn lives that are murdered daily in the name of “convenience” and “freedom of choice?” I so want to bring a new life into the world and cherish that life as a precious treasure from God. I also long for the experience of raising a “typically developing” child who will naturally achieve new milestones without the intensity of intervention, work, and tears that we have and are walking through with Benjamin. What would it feel like to bring home a healthy baby after a safe delivery? Why is that the expected norm for so many and still only a distant dream for me?  Pretty soon I was in an emotional tailspin. I knew where I was going and that it wasn’t helping me at all, but it was a struggle to come up and out.
 During our worship at church this morning we sang about the cross of Jesus Christ and the immense love He demonstrated to us. As I sang and played my guitar, I pictured Jesus’ passion in my mind’s eye and thought, “How can the One who poured out His life blood in love for me, not be trusted with every aspect of my heart and life?” I reminded myself of something He gently spoke to my heart a few months ago, as I poured out my longing to Him for a second child:

Do not waste this time but fill your heart with the oil of intimacy. Cherish this time and be content in Me. It is My gift to you.
I know that when our second child comes, the busyness and demands on my time will significantly increase. I know that the one on one attention I’ve been able to give Benjamin has been so valuable, especially in light of his many delays. I know that the time I’ve already had to fight for to get alone with Jesus has been a gift.  He is inviting me to go deeper into His heart during this season of waiting. Even the uncertainty of my medical condition can be a place to lean into Him more. The comparison game robs me of these truths. In the comparison game the attitude of my heart accuses God, (though I may not say it with my mouth) instead of trusting Him. It lies to me that He is unjust, that He is withholding good from me, that He doesn’t care. I know these things are not true, but how quickly my emotions can be drawn in this direction if I do not take my thoughts captive and bring them back to Jesus.

Life’s trials and disappointments can come from many sources. There is an enemy of our souls who is out to steal, kill and destroy. There are the consequences of our own poor choices or the poor choices of people in our lives. There is the discipline of the Lord, which He uses to draw our hearts back to Him if we have strayed away or to mature us in our walk with Him. Whatever the source of the suffering, though, Jesus desires to use it all to bring us to a place of greater intimacy with Him. He always has the end in mind; He sees past the temporal and into eternity; surely He can be trusted with every facet of our lives!
Will I recognize the gifts of God in my life when they come packaged in a way I did not expect or request? Will I be thankful for and receive His gifts when they look different from what I wanted? Do I believe that I have a better handle on what my life should look like than my Creator, who knows all and loves me without reservation? Will I still hope in His promises when everything around me seems to be screaming the opposite? Will I genuinely trust the One who left heavenly glory to identify with my own weakness and brokenness and to pour out His life for me that I may be made whole?  

I’m so thankful that Jesus is not surprised by my emotional struggles. He is not offended by my weakness when I find myself slipping into the comparison game--again. He is patient and tender towards me in my brokenness, but He is not content to leave me there. He is inviting me to life and freedom, though I must choose to respond. Some scriptures went through my mind this morning as I wrestled through my emotions:
Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ Or shall the handiwork say, ‘He has no hands?’ (Isaiah 45:9b NKJV)

After the risen Jesus prophesied to Peter about the martyr’s death he would face to glorify God, Peter looked at John…
Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me,” (John 21:21-22 NKJV).

Lord Jesus, give me grace, whatever the path may look like, to follow closely after You.

Before my surgery, unbeknownst to me, Shawn took several pictures of family and friends holding up similar signs. After my surgery he surprised me with a homemade slide show set to music. I loved it!

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