Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.
-Galatians 6:4-5 (MSG)
Have you ever given one of those compliments that is actually a thinly shrouded envious comparison? You can always tell by the little tagline that gets added to the end.
“What an athlete. I will never be able to do that.”
“He never let’s anything get to him. I wish I could have that kind of thick skin."
Or one that commonly comes out of my mouth...
“She’s a great administrator. I wish I could organize like that!”
We all have room for growth. But how much time do we spend looking at others and wishing that we were them? The amount of comments that I hear from people about wanting to become like someone else continues to grow. We are in a world of social media bragparisons (I made that word up— it’s a clever combination of bragging and comparisons!) that barrage us with opportunities to create a perfect version of ourselves to shoot for. The only problem is that that version is made up of everyone else but ourselves.
There’s an ancient Hasidic tale about a great rabbi that helps to shed light on our constant dilemma. He lived in the 18th century, and his name was Zusya.
Rabbi Zusya, when he was an older man, was struggling in his final years with the life that he had lived. His students reassured him by telling him that he was almost as wise as Moses and as kind as Abraham.
Rabbi Zusya replied, “In the coming world, they will not ask me: ‘Why were you not Moses?’ or ‘Why were you not Abraham?’ They will ask me: ‘Why were you not Zusya?’”
We all struggle to be us. We tend to think that God would have been a bit wiser if he made us like that bloke over there who seems better at everything. But that’s not how this all works. God desires to redeem and restore everything on this planet, and has deemed people as the partners he wants to use to make it happen. That’s a lot of redemption. And it’s going to need a lot of different types of people to make it happen.
One of my favorite quotes from the exceedingly insightful Dallas Willard was when he spoke of discipleship in light of the What Would Jesus Do (WWJD) movement of the 1990's and said,
“It’s not so much asking what would Jesus do, but rather what would Jesus do if Jesus were you?”
As we follow Jesus, we become more like him, but it happens in a way that also makes us more like the unique person we were created to be. And that will look different in each person’s situation. Perhaps it’s time to make space for that.
We have each been given a unique personality and a unique story. We each have unique abilities that will continue to mature as we bring them to God. And we each have unique experiences, including our hurts and our failures. And yet we take those gifts, often received through pain and tears, and want to trade them in for the story, skills, and personality of another. But it is our limits that create us. They teach us to rely on Jesus. They teach us humility. And they give us wisdom. Why would God want to throw that away? Nothing is wasted in God’s economy. Our greatest deficiencies can even be the opportunity for God’s greatest work through us.
Don’t be Moses. Don’t be Zusya. And you can't be Jesus. Instead, be who Jesus would be if he were you. That’s where you’ll find your truest self, and that’s where you’ll find peace.
Jesus, help me to love and live for You as only I can.