• Bonnie Alderdice • June 16, 2020
We are involved with small groups here at ELM. We believe in the importance of finding a small group to call home. These gatherings offer you a time to build relationships with people that the time permitted in a weekly worship service doesn’t always allow. Most of our closest friends today are ones we got to know through our “Young Adult” small group over 25 years ago. The gems of the small group are encouraging one another, studying the Word together, doing life together, and of course sharing all the food. But I’m not going to lie, the group text that goes out asking everyone “What can you bring?” fills me with lazy dread.
I always want to bring my best recipe. Something that will impress everyone with my Rachel Ray skills making it seem like I must’ve spent hours in the kitchen. But I don’t want to leave my house to go to the store to collect missing ingredients. That’s the lazy part. But while I’m thinking of what to bring, the group text is alive and thriving. Someone snags the entrée. There goes the salad and the bread. And the worst, the dessert slot is now taken! What can I bring that will even bring value to the meal? That’s the dread.
“What can I bring” is not just a question reserved to the small group menu. Standing and listening with a group of ladies talking, I’ve often asked myself “What do I bring to this group?” Looking around the Worship Center at others walking in their gifts, I’ve wondered “What do I have to offer in this moment?” Sitting in a staff meeting, talking to a young mother, praying for a sick friend. “What can I bring?” turns into “What possible thing of worth do I even have to contribute?”
These questions stem from the ugly act of comparing myself to what I see others doing. Theodore Roosevelt said “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Roosevelt was someone who lived life with a joyful attitude. He is remembered as boisterous with a bold happiness even while he endured personal loss and professional trials. He knew that dissatisfaction and insecurity would replace joy with the act of comparing ourselves to others.
Long before Teddy gave us this iconic quote the Word of God was offering direction with the comparison game. Rachel and Leah, Joseph and his brothers, even Jesus’ disciples were plagued with comparison among one another.
The Apostle Paul writes to the church of Corinth: “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” (2 Corinthians 10:12) Ouch. I think Paul just called me unwise.
To the church in Galatia Paul gave this warning: “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10) Separation from Christ is the result when men begin comparing themselves to other men. I surely don’t want to be separated from the Lord by self-doubt born of comparison.
To the church at Philippi Paul expounds: “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (Philippians 4:11-12) I want this peace and freedom from comparison. I most definitely want to experience this contentment Paul has. How do I do this?
First I need to remember when these comparisons creep into my mind, the Lord did not put them there. They are a tool of the enemy to separate me from the body and the Lord. In 2 Timothy Paul gives a blessing to Onesiphorus for he “often refreshed me” (2 Timothy 1:16). Paul in jail was still the Apostle Paul so I wonder if Onesiphorus had his own “What can I possibly do for Paul?” moment. We know from scripture not many people stepped up to care for Paul during this time. That is why Paul was so thankful for the support of Onesiphorus. Instead of asking myself “What can I do?” I hope to be an Onesiphorus to others- someone who prays, encourages, expresses concern, and cares for the needs of others.
Secondly: “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly:” (Romans 12:6) My gift is not the same as yours. However it is just as important and useful to this body. Because: “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.”(1Corinthians 12:12)
Thirdly while comparison may have stolen moments of happiness, I need to remember that my joy comes from the Lord. I will strive to be more mindful of this and follow the example of overcomers in the Bible.
“What do I have to give?”, “What can I possibly do?”, “Who am I that I can contribute anything?” I can give experience, examples, encouragement, love, prayer, discernment, and so much more because I am a part of an eclectic body of believers contributing what they have been given to edify one another, our community, and glorify the Lord.
As an aside, find yourself a small group. Or start one, invite others, bring your best recipe. (One of my most complimented recipes, no joke, cucumbers in salad dressing.) Do life together, loving and encouraging one another to goodness. It’s important. Sometimes you find that when you don’t think you bring anything of value, your very presence is exactly what someone else needed at the time.