“To whom will you compare me?
Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One. (Isaiah 40:25 NLT)
Everyone who competes . . . goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (1 Corinthians 9:25 NIV)
As we spiral ever closer to the day of celebration, words that start with “com” and “con” continue to swirl in my mind.
Words that invite us to be together, to join our hearts in pondering the WORD become flesh. I confess that two strange words head up this list. Compare and compete. Not the most positive words, at first glance. Comparison and competition usually lead to strife, manifested in self-glory or self-loathing.
It’s easy this time of year to compare and compete within our hearts. Who bought the best gift? Who cooks the best Christmas dinner? Who owns the ugliest sweater?
Which tradition is better? Which church has the best Christmas Eve service? Which sweater should I wear to the family gathering?
Basically, by these comparisons and competitions, a deep seated insecurity surfaces that keeps me from truly enjoying the “with”ness that God intended for these Christmas celebrations.
Comparing myself to others can leave me full of pride, especially when I think I’m better. Or these comparisons can leave me depressed, because I know I am not the better one.
Pondering this way could lead to despair. To keep this all in perspective, I decided to look up the meaning of these two words.
Compare means “to represent as similar” or “to liken.” Literally “with equal,” which brings to mind the mystery that Jesus came not to compete with the Father, but to serve His purposes.
“Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:6,7 NIV)
In light of this meaning, I think comparison has a positive role to play in our spiritual life. If we didn’t have the word compare, then our faith in the incomparable riches of Christ would be pointless. Without comparison, we would never experience the holiness of God incarnate. We would be left feeling incomplete, as we keep seeking satisfaction outside of God’s superlative love and grace.
Competition is another notion, that conjures up strife and disappointment.
But after some contemplation, it seems that to compete may not be all bad. The word conveys this meaning: “to strive for” or ” to go together.” The Latin origins offer us this nuance, “with” plus “to seek” or in other words “to seek with or together.” So to compete doesn’t always mean to be in opposition or to strive against others. It could inspire us to create a community that strives together to seek our Savior. To live our lives in agreement with His purposes and will.
Sure many other things compete for our attention in this life, but what if we considered that God has set before us a race to run, a race where we all win and compete to get to the end together, to enjoy the eternal presence of Jesus. Not just once a year, but forever.
“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (Hebrews 12:1-3 The Message)
We may be in a season, where we are waiting with much enthusiasm for Christmas morning, or we may be dreading it, because soon all the hard work and hype will dissipate (like it does every year.)
But take heart, Jesus is waiting for us, and we are not alone. God with us means He IS with us always! He will keep our faith burning long after the glow of Christmas passes. Take comfort, the goodness of God exists now and forevermore. Enter in.