"...Without a noise,
without my pride
I reach out from the inside...
...In your eyes
The light. the heat
In your eyes
I am complete,
In your eyes
The resolution of all
the fruitless searches..."
- Peter Gabriel
One of the most wonderful moments in my own journey towards a more authentic humility, and real confidence in Christ, came while driving home from church one early Spring day. I'd been spending most of my time quite alone that week. My husband was on assignment in another city, and my children were on a trip with their dad and stepmom. It was me and Mollie, our little Golden Retriever, and she wasn't talking much. I was looking at myself and my world, through the silent lens of living, moving, and breathing, as Peter Gabriel suggests, "In Your Eye".
I'd made a commitment, earlier that year, to spend as much time in silence as was humanly possible. In order to strengthen my practice of "deep listening" I was carving out spaces in my day for silence...blocks of time where I would open my heart to hearing only the voice of my divine parent. No television or music at home, not even our lovely classical station or my beloved NPR (National Public Radio) in the car...and by the way, it was this giving up of "All Things Considered", "The Diane Rehm Show", "Talk of the Nation" with Neal Conan, "Fresh Air", and "Morning Edition" that gave me the shakes. But I'd made a commitment and there was no going back during that 100 days. I'd decided that cold turkey was the only way to go, and soon wished I'd found an AA-like sponsor to help me through the first few road trips.
On this particular Sunday I was missing the distraction of listening to someone else's talking, an inspired guest on "Speaking of Faith", or the witty brothers, Tom and Ray, on "CarTalk" to fill the silence, and to save me from my own thoughts. They'd be funny. Whereas, my thoughts were dark, and I felt small and insignificant.
I decided to stay the course, "step away from the radio", and instead, launch into a dialogue with God. I began by asking the question, "What is it that most often leaves me feeling this way...scared and small?" I just sat with that question until the answer became perfectly clear. And I knew the answer was accurate, because I accepted it without another thought. It said, "When I compare myself to others." Hmmm. I didn't question it for a second. I knew it was true.
I'd spent most of my life alternately being obsessed with, or haunted by, comparing myself with others. Comparing my body, parenting skills, possessions, work, inspiration...to those of the people around me. How did I measure up? Was I better than...or did I fall short of? But the person I could most often be found comparing myself to was, well...myself. My past self. My imagined self. My self that made mistakes, my self that had, in the past, reached beyond her goals, or wondered if she would ever really be inspired (or inspiring) quite the way she'd always hoped. The self that was never good enough...the self that perceived she was separated from God, good.
"But how do I stop?" I wondered from behind the steering wheel, in the drumming silence of a rainy Sunday afternoon. Then I remembered I was supposed to be listening to God, not my own musings. So I asked, "Father, why do I compare myself to others?" God's response was quick and as clear and penetrating as glass slicing through the years of guilt, self-doubt, and regret.
"What others?" my Father's voice asked.
I got it. In the sacred sanctuary of our relationship, there was no one else "in the room"...in God's heart...but me.
But could this really be possible? Then I thought about my relationship with my own daughters. I do not compare my love for Emma with my love for Clara. I never compare one's gifts with the other's. Each is completely wonderful, completely beautiful, completely complete in my heart. There is no measure of love...a certain portion with one, and a different amount with the other...only All-for-each. I fully love them, each of my children, completely, but individually...without comparison. It made me laugh to think of all the times I have heard the phrase "compared favorably"...what an oxymoron!!
I can't tell you how many times this divine question, "What others?" has stopped me in my mental tracks when the comparison snake starts to slither and hiss its sneaky self around my heart.
In my relationship with my Father-Mother God, there is no one else in the room. I have His/Her entire attention and love. But then, so do you...
Kate Robertson, CS
[photo credit: Carol Nicoli-Matthews on an Italian beach as taken by, and through the eyes of her mother, my friend, Laura Matthews 2009]