When I was a little girl, I took piano lessons from an older gentleman who had a calming voice, and serene presence. He was patient, gentle, and kind in his critique and instruction. I still remember him telling me how to position my hands on the piano keys, arched and soft like I was holding a bubble in my hand. With confidence, and the eagerness of a young heart ready to learn, I looked forward my lessons with him. When he retired, the person who attempted to fill his shoes was quite the opposite. She was much younger, somewhat intimidating, critical of my technique, and abrasive in nature. So much so, that made my eight-year-old self feel nervous and insecure. Not all an environment that was conducive to learning.
My love of the piano and desire to learn was dashed the day the new teacher approached my mom after a lesson. For some reason she asked my mom what kind of grades I got in school. The teacher's condescending tone communicated that she didn’t feel I was learning fast enough or that I was even capable of doing well on the piano. As a result, I lost the enthusiasm to play piano, with the conversation causing the curtains to close on that season of my life. As one would anticipate, I never did go back. Who knows the piano player I might have become if I had stuck it out, especially considering the musical talent of my father.
That same little girl followed me into adult life. She shows up periodically, especially in the times when I get caught in the trap of comparing myself to others. When I find myself feeling envious of the way other writers articulate their words, she is there. In the times I wish I had been the one to come up with some clever idea, that little girl comes forward. Or when I find myself wishing that I had the level of commitment like the women I follow on social media: they work out consistently and drink a smoothies every day, and I just can't seem to measure up.
Do you know what comparison does? It makes me want to quit everything. It leaves me feeling small and insignificant in comparison and causes me to question my worth. Out of the blue my 15-year-old son said something about me that I was shocked to hear. Shocked in a good way. It made me immediately stand up a little straighter. I felt confidence rise from within. Winning the praise of a teenager is a rare thing. Winning the praise of my teenager? It was rare and beautiful and good for my heart. Truth is, the approval of the world matters little if I’m failing where it matters most...as a parent.
We all have a realm of influence. Even if yours feel small and insignificant. Someone, somewhere in your circle of interactions is influenced by what you say and do, and how you live your life.
That’s no small thing.
Have you ever seen a tree uprooted? The roots are massive and spread deep and wide. Our lives have roots that spread about. We were created on purpose and for a purpose and with intricate design and detail. Psalm 139: 15-16 (NIV) says, "My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." We are fully known and deeply loved by the one who created all things and who rules over all. There is nothing small or inferior about that.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT: The only approval that will satisfy this heart in a lasting way is knowing what God says about me and allowing that to be enough. The truth is there will always be someone more intelligent, more articulate, braver, more confident, prettier, skinnier, wealthier, or more successful by the world's definition. I can feel inspired by others and not feel inferior to them because I am not called to live by the world's definition of my worth. Looking at others for the measure of my worth will always create an insatiable need for more.
PRAYER: Father, I thank you for the uniqueness you have created in me. I thank you for the reminder in your word that I am "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14 NIV). Renew my mind and heart to the truth of your word when I am tempted to compare myself and help me to confidently live out who you've created and called me to be. Amen.
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