In part 1 of the “The Family Comparison Game,” I shared about my taxing and toxic family comparisons. I’ve been guilty of comparing myself and my parenting, my children’s character and education – even our spiritual gifts – with others. My goal was for our family to look good and excel. I placed my confidence in my accomplishments. It made me feel successful.
Jesus has done substantial work in my heart in these last years through six practical principles. Taken together His perspective and wisdom have revolutionized my paradigm! Here they are in the order He revealed them.
- I regularly retreat.
I default to poisonous comparisons more readily when I’m lost in a wilderness of busyness and pressure. I’m not really failing; I just need fresh perspective. But when I climb the highest hill in sight, I can chart our family’s new course from the top. I have learned that retreats give me this hilltop view and are essential to our family’s health and growth.
- For personal retreats I step away from home (for an overnight, sometimes two) with my Bible and journal and come away with the Lord’s heart for my personal life and family. I try to do this at least once a year.
- When I retreat with my husband we pray over each child and each other. Other categories of prayer include: church, work, school, finance and ministry. We talk over concerns and type a course of action. The Lord comforts and encourages me through my husband. I feel covered and on track. Rich and I have set a goal to retreat over overnight twice a year.
- I also retreat with close friends at least once a year. These retreats include deep sharing, teaching, prayer for one another, great food, and a wonderful craft. When I return home I am sharpened and encouraged.
- In times of unusual pressure – when I would like to run away – but can’t, I retreat to my bedroom and lean into the Lord for a little while, sometimes kneeling or laying prostrate before Him. In this submitted, fully reliant way, I rest in Jesus and can testify to His wisdom and faithfulness in my crisis.
When I remember who I am in the Lord, and I re-commit to His heart for my family, I am better equipped to serve them. I call this relational posture “parenting from my knees.” Refreshed, confident and visioned for my family’s next steps, I don’t default to comparisons.
Dear friends, for those of you who are reading this principle and want to cry because a retreat of any kind seems like an impossible dream, but you know you desperately need one, begin in prayer today. Pour out your desire to your Father, who knows and cares. Next, share with your husband. If this is a season when retreats are not possible, remember that there is a season for everything under Heaven. Your season for retreats is coming.
- I embrace contentment.
A number of years ago my friend Karen shared this profound nugget. I was describing the pain and frustration of having a child with special needs. I’ve never forgotten her tender response: “Susan, if your situation was easier, you wouldn’t be any happier.” I have tested that statement through many years and she was right. My circumstances have nothing to do with my happiness. I am happiest when I submit to the adventure before me and trust the Lord, my Strength.
- I develop our unique gifts.
Comparisons are their most toxic when I start comparing my family’s weaknesses to other families’ strengths.
Parents need to discern each child’s gift and equip him (or her, of course) to excel in that strength. (Pr. 22:6, Eph. 6:4). Every child needs to feel that he/she does one thing really well.
Along with encouraging individual strengths, we have also assessed or family’s gifts and passions. We found that hospitality and leadership are our shared gifts so we feel called to open our home and lead small groups. When I am content with our unique place in the Body of Christ, I don’t have to compare (I Cor. 12).
- I don’t should on myself.
My friend Dee shared this advice during a retreat: Whenever you catch yourself saying, “I should _____” (fill in the blank), stop and scrutinize the motive behind the confession. If the motive is to “keep up” or “look good,” ask the Lord to reveal His will for your life and your family, then walk in peace. The Lord is our Peace.
- I step forward with my friends.
When my friends step forward, I step forward. I do not mean that I try to snatch at their privileges or position, but that their wise example sets the stage for forward movement in my life too; blessing pours back on me because we are linked in a growing love relationship. My family is ushered into mutual blessing by association.
- When a family we love is spiritually hot, revival fire falls on us.
- When a family we love is plowing new ground, we have the opportunity to sow.
- When a family we love is leading, we receive vision.
- When a family we love is wise, we can apply wisdom through their example.
We get to choose how we will respond to the sparkling brilliance of others. We can be withered and stunted by comparisons, or we can accept our invitation to advance with the Kingdom of God. Jealousy and comparisons cause us to miss our cue to step forward together.
If you are still with me but are skimming this article, principle 6 is the most important and here it is –
- I live in love.
This is the most valuable shift of my life. It begins early in the day as I ask my Father to use me as an extension of His expansive and richly merciful heart and I find that I am falling in love with His people. More and more, I’m intentionally aware that those the Lord places in my day are placed there intentionally: family, friends, even strangers. As I practice really seeing the person in front of me, I’m finding that love casts out comparisons.
I don’t live the Family Comparison Game anymore and there is such freedom on the other side. Here’s to the uniqueness of every family and the bubbling joy of being who we were created be.