I hesitate to begin this post. I like to write encouragement, both for you and for myself. But the beginning of this post feels more like a confession than anything else. There's some ugly in my soul. And while I don't believe in unnecessarily airing my dirty laundry, I think this turns into hope, because of the work Jesus is doing in me. And maybe you can relate to what I'm about to say. Plus, writing things like this is adventurous, right? Right.
So let's get to it.
As many of you know, I'm reading Emily Freeman's book Simply Tuesday (it's on sale on Amazon right now! Go buy it!). I just finished the section on what she calls "Tuesday People" -- those people that are with us in the day-to-day smallness, what she calls "a safe place to feel insecure." In one of the chapters, she writes about connection and competition.
I went into this chapter a little forewarned. Someone in our launch team Facebook group had posted a quote from that chapter. I knew what was coming to me.
Except I didn't. At all.
I did not expect to see in myself the kind of ugliness and sneakiness that I discovered. I thought competitiveness was loud and abrasive. My brother Cooper is competitive. He likes to win, and makes no secret of it. I? I am not competitive, I thought.
Current Me is laughing at Past Me. Ruefully.
Competitiveness has another side. It isn't always noisy and trash-talking. It can be subversive and silent, like a snake in the garden.
Here's what it looks like for me. I struggle to write this, but I appreciate you bearing with me in my honesty.
I am desperate to be the best at everything. I take pride in my abilities, the things I am good at, even my hobbies, like running. I not only enjoy those things, but I often feel as though they distinguish me. And I am so selfish that I want to be the only one who does those hobbies, or I want to be the best at what I do. I want this to the exclusion of others. I don't want them to have what I feel that I've got.
So, when I perceive myself to be threatened, I start trying to validate myself. I tell myself that I'm still better than her, that I do more than he does, that I have run for longer -- see how this works? I'm competing with people in my own head in order to validate myself and feed my insecurity.
I am desperately afraid of feeling less, of feeling small.
Recently, it's come to light how detrimental this is to my soul. In some cases, I find myself unable to be truly happy for people. It makes congratulations harder. It's as if when I acknowledge the work and achievements and blessings of others, my own are diminished.
When I write that, I realize how silly it is. When I write it, I see it clearly. But I know that's not how it feels. It feels legitimate to me. I have to get some of my own, I think. I have to assert my own claim and abilities and accomplishments -- even if it's only in my own head.
And this prevents me from being a good companion. How can I be a friend if I'm constantly double- and triple-checking to see if I'm validated? I can hardly even have a conversation without injecting my own point of view. Often this is done out of love and a genuine desire to help, but when I look closer, I find that I cannot be silent, because to remain silent means I have no role. I have no place. I cannot fix or advise or do any of those things I want to do. My role is diminished, I feel. I am small.
The two most wonderful words in all the Bible.
What if smallness is the place I'm supposed to live? What if that's the place God has designed for me? What if the lines that have fallen in pleasant places enclose a very narrow space, by divine design (Sidebar: there used to be a show on HGTV called Divine Design. It was my favorite show. Moving on)?
What if, when I am in a conversation, my role is to be silent and listen -- to embrace my smallness in that moment and simply be a companion?
What if, instead of competing in my head with incredible standards, I welcomed the smallness I feel in the face of others' accomplishments? What if I turned to Jesus in my less-than feelings to discover that, whether or not I made up those feelings, He is holding me in all of them? If He helps me to really see people, then I can rejoice with them. And the great thing, y'all, is that He does help me to see them.
What if I embraced smallness as my natural place and learned to see that I'm not in control, and that's a good thing?
Following Jesus involves so much balance. My soul is so full of dark -- but, praise be to God, the Maker of Heaven and earth, there's grace for that. He has already declared me righteous in the blood of His Son. Though that's true, I know I am nowhere near the person I want to be, the Sara that God is making. The good news is that He's forming me into that, day by day, moment by moment.
And this is part of that.
May I embrace my smallness today, both in the dim light of feeling less and in the sunshine of the blessings I experience for myself. May I learn to listen in smallness and be a true companion for my friends (who I hope are still friends with me after reading this). May I dive right into the fear of less, because it is in those icy waters where Jesus and His glorious grace are fully seen.