"...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
We were having tea the other day when a friend asked me how I dealt with being compared to other women. I smiled. In some ways my wearisome battle with comparisons, envy, and and self-critique seem like an ongoing battle. But in the most important way of all -- spiritually, I feel it only, ever, occurs "as in a dream."
As one of five sisters (in a family that never had more than one bathroom) I rarely stood in front of a mirror, that there weren't two or more faces staring back at me. And, to be honest, I always felt as if I were the "one of these things is not like the other" object in the ever-evolving reflection.
To me, each of my sisters were infinitely more amazing, and more beautiful, than me.
And the comparisons didn't stop with the mirror. I never felt as funny, smart, interesting, or inspired in their company. Each has something truly stellar they consistently contribute to the world.
And I wish I could say that this tendency to compare myself was limited to some bygone time or place -- say, high school, or to the family bathroom. But it wasn't. I seemed to carry that lens with me into far too many settings.
But, here is the story of my first taste of real freedom. The kind of freedom that lasts. The kind of freedom where what once enslaved you, actually helps you realize that you have discovered emancipation -- and your own strength. And in the face of this new awareness, the bully flees from you.
"In Your eyes - I am complete..."
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 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 the dog, and she wasn't talking much. I was looking at things through the silent lens of living, moving, and breathing, as Peter Gabriel suggests, "In Your Eyes".
Earlier that year I'd made a commitment to spending 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 total stillness. Finding 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. And even listening to my beloved NPR (National Public Radio) in the car had been put on the chopping block. I'd made a commitment, and there was no going back on myself. I'd decided that cold turkey was the only way to go. But I'd soon wished I had found an AA-like sponsor to help me through the first few road trips.
On this particular Sunday, I was really missing the distraction of listening to someone else talk. I needed an inspired guest on "Speaking of Faith", or the witty brothers, Tom and Ray, on "CarTalk" to fill the silence. I needed something to save me from my own thoughts. Tom and Ray would be funny. Whereas, my thoughts were dark, and making me feel small, scared, and insignificant.
However, I decided to stay the course and "step away from the radio." Instead, I launched 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?"
And then I just sat with that question until an answer started coming into focus. It didn't take long before it was perfectly clear. I knew the answer was accurate, because I accepted it without protest.
"Why you know, " the Voice said, "it's when you compare yourself to others."
Hmmm. I didn't question it for a second. I knew it was true.
I'd spent most of my life comparing myself with others. Comparing my body, parenting skills, possessions, work, home, 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 funny thing was, the person I be found most often comparing myself with was, well...me. My past self. My imagined self. My self that made mistakes. My self that had once, in the past, reached beyond her goals. The me who wondered if she would ever really be as wise, witty, or inspiring as she'd always hoped. The self that was never good enough.
The self that perceived she was separated from God, good.
"Okay then, 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 coming up with my own solutions.
So I more humbly asked, "Father, why do I compare myself to others?"
God's response was quick and as clear and penetrating as glass slicing through the murky years of guilt, self-doubt, and regret.
"What others?" my Father's voice asked.
And I got it. Immediately, I got it. In the sacred sanctuary of our relationship, there was no one else "in the room," but me.
"But could this really be possible?" I wondered.
Then I thought about my relationship with my own daughters. I do not compare my love for Emma, with my love for Clara -- or vice versa. I never compare one's gifts with the other's. Each is completely wonderful, completely beautiful, completely complete in my heart.
There is no measuring cup for love...a certain portion with one, and a different amount with the other. There is no meting out of affection and appreciation. There is only All-for-each. I fully love them -- each of my children, completely, but individually. I love them without comparison.
It made me laugh to think of all the times I have heard the phrase "compared favorably"...what a ridiculous and thoughtless oxymoron! Comparisons are never favorable.
I can't tell you how many times this divinely sweet question, "What others?" has stopped me in my mental tracks. And when the comparison snake starts to slither and hiss its sneaky self around my heart, I only have to remember:
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...