A SEA OF COMPARISON
A big part of me desperately hoped that becoming a mama would be overwhelmingly fulfilling. That it would be like walking through a magic door, shedding old habits of comparison, self-focus, and self-doubt on the way through. I’ve struggled with these sinful postures since adolescence but wish more than anything that I didn’t. Surely I wouldn’t have room for petty, prideful, envious judgments of others when I was busy living out the calling of motherhood. Right? Instead, just five months into the calling, I find myself confronted with the fact that my old habits haven’t gone away. They’re just as consuming as they ever have been; they just look different in this new season.
I hear that a friend’s husband surprised her last night with a babysitter, sweeping her off her feet for a date at a fancy uptown restaurant. My minds wanders back to the last date night I had, which was weeks ago and ended with me picking up a crying baby from my parents’ house an hour into the date. On social media, I see yet another photo of one mama’s little boy who is always pictured as the happiest baby ever. Always with a huge grin sprawled across on his sweet face. My mind wanders to my baby who often cries in the hands of family members and friends, leaving me swimming with grief through the feeling that my baby will be labeled as a “fussy” one by loved ones. Grieving that they don’t get to see the sweet, content the side of her that I do.A mama friend tells me over lunch how she has lost every pound of baby weight and then some just three months post-partum. My mind wanders to the yoga pants that I begrudgingly peeled off for this very lunch date, just to barely squeeze into my pre-baby jeans at five months post-partum.
Why doesn’t my husband show his affection for me more often? Why doesn’t my baby meet my expectations or “perform” when I want her to? Why doesn’t my body look anything like it used to?
Drowning in comparisons, I lose all of my joy. I find that I have reduced motherhood and marriage to values, things to be evaluated and measured up next to others. On top of the weight of the envy I feel, I recognize that I am playing the comparison game and the guilt is heavy for it. I know the truth that God has blessed me with a sweet marriage, a precious baby girl, and a healthy body. Yet, the sea of comparisons that is constantly swirling in my head still leaves me wanting. I am too consumed to truly appreciate what is in front of me.
In Luke 1:39-45, Elizabeth shows me that there might be another way. She had every reason to measure herself up against Mary. Every reason to be envious. Every reason to drown in a sea of comparisons, too. But Elizabeth does not respond to Mary’s arrival by giving her the “once over,” judging her pregnancy out of wedlock. Elizabeth does not hold onto the pain of years of barrenness in the face of her friend’s fertility. She does not grumble about carrying a child in old age while her friend enjoys pregnancy in youth. Why?
Instead of envy, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit, she responds by embracing her friend with pure joy. As John MacArthur’s Bible Commentary describes, “Elizabeth’s grasp of the situation was extraordinary... She greeted Mary not with skepticism but joy. She understood… She seemed to comprehend the immense importance… All of this must be attributed to the illuminating work of the Spirit.”
CELEBRATION OVER COMPARISON
Elizabeth fully recognizes Mary’s blessing and even goes so far as to celebrate, encouraging her friend passionately and genuinely. “Blessed are you among women,” she tells Mary excitedly and in a loud voice. Elizabeth chooses to share in Mary’s joy instead of seething with jealousy over Mary’s blessings by comparing them to her own.
Elizabeth’s perspective leads her to worship God for the work He was doing through Mary. Never mind that her baby is basically going to be a servant to Mary’s baby. She worships God for His provision of a Savior through her friend Mary. She trusts in God’s plan completely and humbly accepts that God has cast her uniquely for her role as John’s mother and Mary’s friend - not the other way around. She embraces the circumstances gladly and joyfully, and in doing so, she is delivered from comparison and envy.
When I allow it to take root, comparison warps my perspective. In comparing my marriage and motherhood journey to others’, I am left unable to appreciate the blessings God has given me. I lose sight of the unique roles God has cast for me. I miss it all because I am too busy fixating on what I see God giving to others. When I focus on my story instead of God’s story, I lose the opportunity to rejoice at His provision.
ENCOURAGEMENT OVER ENVY
Elizabeth understood her role in God’s plan for Redemption. She knew God had a plan for her and a plan for Mary. His plans for each woman were different. His blessings for each were different. But the understanding of the larger story of which they were both a part, enabled her to foster friendship with Mary and gave her encouragement to embrace the task God gave uniquely to her. His glory was more important than her own.
Rather than comparing ourselves to and judging fellow mamas, let us be encouraged and challenged to see where God is at work as Elizabeth did. Let it lead us to celebrate rather than compare. Let it lead us to encourage rather than envy.
No one else is your child’s mama or your husband’s wife. God cast us each uniquely. Let us embrace the roles God has chosen for us to accomplish his purposes, and encourage others in the roles he’s given to them. Let us be delivered from envy and comparison as we are humbled by the fact that he uses us at all.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION/ APPLICATION:
- Who in your world are you most tempted to compare yourself to? When are you most tempted to compare?
- How does seeing God's sovereignty over the characters in the Christmas story free you from that comparison and move you to rejoicing? Where is he using you? How has he uniquely gifted you to love your husband and children as only you can?
- Think back to that person you compare yourself with. How can you affirm them where you see God at work in their life? How can you celebrate the way he is using them? How can you encourage them in their task?
Lauren is a Jesus-loving wife to Garrett and first-time mama to a 6 month old baby girl named Scarlett. She is a former elementary school teacher turned full-time wife and mama. She enjoys writing educational curriculum part-time when she can squeeze it in during nap times. You can find some of that curriculum here.