Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Filling in the Blanks

“For some say, ‘His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.’  Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.  We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.  We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you.” (II Corinthians 10:10-13 NIV)

This morning I read a post on Facebook from a mother who lamented her struggle with comparing her life to those seemingly perfect lives posted on Facebook and vowed to stop doing it.  She is far from alone.  

We all see the posts and images of our friends and acquaintances and it is easy to conclude their lives are perfect.  Husbands/wives are without flaws; children are always cute, adorable, funny, and never frustrating; friendships are wonderful without ever any tensions; vacations are always fun and exotic.  You get the picture.  

But in everyone’s life, there are always blanks that need to be filled in—with reality.  I think this is basically Paul’s message to the Corinthians. Some were comparing him with those among them that were claiming greatness for themselves in the areas of speaking and leadership.  I can imagine them sitting around boasting of their rhetorical prowess, painting a picture of how wonderful they were.  Who was Paul compared to them?  But Paul, echoing Jesus, warned them of boasting beyond proper limits.  In other words, beyond what their lives truly were. They were trying to paint a picture of themselves that was not reality and comparing themselves with one another.  Paul says they were unwise to do so. Perhaps because it smacked of arrogance and pride. Though he was derided, Paul was content with his life because he trusted the Lord and didn’t need to prove himself.  People boast out of pride and insecurity, but Paul knew his shortcomings and was secure in God’s love for him.  We would do well to follow his example.

It is not wise for us to look at Facebook and compare our lives with those portrayed there.  The impressions given by Facebook posts are, though usually unintentionally, a form of boasting beyond proper limits because they fail to project reality.  No life is perfect.  Spouses and significant others disappoint us, kids can test our patience beyond what we think we can bear, and friendships are sometimes fraught with challenges.  Life is often hard, frustrating, and disappointing, but one will rarely get that impression from Facebook. But if we struggle with pride or insecurity, we will be tempted to compare ourselves with these portrayals, feeling guilty and needing to keep up with them.

Today, as Paul wisely instructs, do not compare yourself with those who paint, intentionally or unintentionally, their lives in ways that are beyond reality.  Instead, fill in the blanks and know that everyone struggles and that no one’s life is even close to being perfect.  Instead of comparing yourself to everyone else, recognize you are loved by God and be content with the life He has given you.

© Jim Musser 2014

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