Have you ever paid attention to how you categorize people? I tend to think of someone as a compulsive, neat freak if they clean more than I do. If they clean less, they are slobs. If they spend a lot of money on clothes or physical appearance—they’re shallow trendsetters; if they don’t, they might be dowdy. I inwardly rate others on everything from verbal skills, cooking ability, parenting style, the condition of their lawns, the behavior of their pets, and the length of their fingernails. I have recently scrutinizedwhat I am using as a measuring tool when I make these mental comparisons and was surprised to find they all have something in common: The common denominator is me. I have made myself the standard.
"For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise."
2 Corinthians 10:12
The problem with defining and categorizing others’ actions and behavior based on what I do, or would do, in any given situation is that nobody died and put me in charge. I never heard a voice from heaven say, “Dawn is perfect. Copy her. Think like she does.”
I once heard the story of two men describing an animal they had never seen before. The first said, “It is very big. It has thick legs, no eyes, and a tiny skinny nose.” The second disagreed; “No! It has large ears, pointy teeth, and a long nose.” They were both looking at the same elephant—describing it from two different angles.
One of my least favorite activities has always been assembling jigsaw puzzles. I get overwhelmed just dumping the box on the table with all the jumble of color and similar shapes. I rush to preserve the few pieces that come connected from the factory—a bit of a jumpstart—yay! As I sort pieces into color, I become discouraged how ALIKE they all appear and I get angry when one that seems like it ought to fit in a certain place won’t.
People who make puzzles do something smart. They put a picture of the finished puzzle on the front of the box so the assemblers know what the finished product is supposed to look like. It is there as a guide.
If we look at our community/church life as one big jigsaw puzzle, we each find we are really working on our own little area of a much larger puzzle. We gather pieces with colors that we think will complete our one section and focus on getting that right. I am working on a section with a fence, so I’m convinced we’re making a picture of a pasture. You’re working on some clouds so you insist we’re doing a picture of the sky. We don’t really see the parts that others are focusing on until the puzzle gets close to completion. Then the excitement builds as we begin to see it coming together: Only a few more pieces! Is this one of yours? Will it fit here and connect both our sections together? It will! It isn’t a picture of a pasture or a sky—it’s a beach scene!
Our limited perspective is what makes comparisons between people break down. If I measure you by what I see in my own life, I am not allowing you to be unique by design. I do not hold the cover of the box. I don’t have the blueprint. We don’t all have to be the same but we do have to fit together. And in the end, from a heavenly vantage point, we will see what the Creator has been planning all along—a beautiful mural of his Bride, without spot or wrinkle (or warped pieces that were forced by impatient hands into the wrong place.)
Oh, to look in the mirror every day and declare to myself, “You are not the standard!” How refreshing that would be for my own ears and to all those with whom I come in contact!