In my single days, my roommates and I kept an article from John Piper on our refrigerator as a daily reminder to fight the sin of comparison. I was reminded of it last week as we wrapped up our summer bible study on John with the women of our church. As Peter has just been restored to fellowship with Christ, he is immediately pulled into the comparison game as he looks at his fellow disciple, John. Piper says this about Peter's question to Jesus.
That’s the way we sinners are wired. Compare. Compare. Compare. We crave to know how we stack up in comparison to others. There is some kind of high if we can just find someone less effective than we are. Ouch. To this day, I recall the little note posted by my Resident Assistant in Elliot Hall my senior year at Wheaton: “To love is to stop comparing.” What is that to you, Piper? Follow me.
Comparison is such a besetting issue for us as women. We see a woman dressed differently than us and we mentally stand next to her and boast in our attractiveness or wallow in how much better she looks. We see another mother with her children and compare our parenting skills, or lack of skills. We see a wife love her husband well and measure our relationship next to hers. We see a co-worker excel at a particular task and wonder why we can't work with the same speed and precision. Or to hit it home for me, I read another writer and feel stings of comparison as her perfectly crafted sentences make mine look like the work of an amateur.
The business of comparison is a dirty one.
But I was struck by something else as I studied this last part of John, something that put my own struggles with comparison in perspective. Peter and John both served very necessary, yet unique purposes in the establishment of the church. John lived a long life and wrote a number of New Testament books. Peter was at the forefront of the spread of the church (through much persecution) and according to tradition, was crucified upside down. Both lives looked very different. But both were needed in God's kingdom.
The same is true for us as writers, women, mothers, wives, employees, and church members. As a writer, I may say something in such a way that a specific woman has ears to hear. Land a different woman's eyes on my written words and she may need the voice of another friend of mine, who writes in a different voice. Both voices are necessary, both styles get the point across, but everyone has different ears to hear in different situations. We are all necessary.
In the writing world it can be easy to compare our own abilities and accomplishments with the woman next to us (or to put it more clearly, on the Internet page next to us). But we mustn't do that, friends. Like Peter and John, we have been given unique abilities, voices, and styles to minister to women who need to see that God's word is true and valuable in their lives. The woman who writes with more wit or careful turning of a phrase than me is not a threat to my gifting, but a blessing. She helps others see God when my words fall short. That is a gift! She is a service to the church in the same way I am called to be. I can lean on her and learn from her, but I should never resent her.
There is much to celebrate in this particular season with the multitude of women writers. I am encouraged by so many of them. As Christian women, who long to see God glorified in our lives, let us take the words of our Christ to heart when we feel the sting of jealousy rise up in our hearts over the giftings of another:
"What is that to you [sister]? You follow me."