Saturday, March 4, 2017

Greener Pastures

You might make the shot someone else is striving for but you won’t win the game off their put.
It was in a conversation at my dear small group this week that inspiration hit. I quite honestly spend a lot of time in what Pastor Andy Stanley describes as the comparison trap. I set imaginary timelines for myself based on what the world tells me I need to be doing at this point in my life, but I’ve come to wonder: am I actively seeking what God wants for me in this season of life? I’m tired of comparing and I think maybe some of you are too.
There was a brief break in our small group discussion this week and one of my new friends began to tell a story about the school she currently attends. She went on to describe that the school spends a lot of time on the front streets and buildings that everybody sees. The sidewalks are kept tidy, the lawn freshly cut and the pathways made accessible to all who venture to pass. On the surface, the campus looks beautiful and well kept.
She quickly dispelled that illusion however when she went on to describe the paths and spots that people from the outside can’t see. She revealed that the pathways to class often include rocky terrain, high grass and less than desirable conditions. To the outside world it appears to be all paved sidewalks, when in reality the side roads are nothing but un-kept brush.
That simple contrast touched me deeply. It is a perfect picture of the human perspective. Most people only present the best and hide what they don’t want others to see.
I imagine it like being on a golf course. The object of golf is simply to get your ball in the right place, in the right amount of strokes. As a golfer you desire to stay in the fairway and the greens which are where the hole and flag are located. However, many times, golfers hit a ball that ends up in the sand, the water or the rough. The rough is defined as the area outside of the fairway with higher grass that is naturally growing and unkept. Like with the campus, golf provides an obvious comparison.
And that’s what people do in life as well—they compare. Unfortunately, it’s often their worst to someone’s best. We see ourselves standing in the rough while others appear to be dancing with the flag. We see others as the wondrous brick-lined streets and ourselves as the patches of rough terrain. Our perspective is off because our balls keep landing in places they don’t belong.
And if we are shooting for a life in the greens then we quite simply have to get out of the sand traps. As Andy Stanley says, “There is no win in comparison.” Pastor Chris Hodges says, “If you are going to play ball in the rough; you are going to have a rough life.”
Proverbs 4:27 states, “Do not turn, to the right or to the left; turn your foot from evil.” We cannot get caught up in turning to the side and looking at what other people are doing. Our race is specifically designed for us. To try and run someone else’s would be pointless. You might make the shot someone else is striving for but you won’t win the game off their put.
Another verse that has spoken deeply to me on this issue comes from Matthew 23:27 and it states, “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead bones.” The Message puts it like this: “Frauds! You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones...”
To those who live in the sand traps of comparison or who keep hitting their ball from the rough—choose to look up instead of out at everybody else. Most of the time their manicured life that looks so appealing isn’t exactly what it seems. It’s like my friend’s school—they present the best and hide the rest.
My amazing leader prayed the perfect thing for me that night: “Let me enjoy the sweet season I am in.” Be free in your own race, hit your ball confidently and remember, “The grass may be greener, but the water bill is higher” (Chris Hodges). The sand traps or the fairway—it’s up to you!
—Only Hope

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