My guy and I have been meaning to go hiking for quite a while. We love being outdoors and feeling the crunch of the earth beneath our feet, but, lately, life has edged out this particular activity. Well, life and sleeping in on Bacon Saturday.
Anyway, you can imagine how stoked we were to finally be hitting a nearby trail yesterday. We were ready to charge the first 2.5 miles up and enjoy the two-plus-mile downhill portion that would circle back toward our car.
Friends, we did not charge. Instead, we sort of half hobbled, half crawled up the steep incline as my legs ached and lungs burned. I even had to stop—three times. I was so mad at myself for not being able to zip past the mile markers like I used to in months and years past. After a good stretch of mentally berating myself for not being in better shape, we reached the top.
I knew it’d be smooth sailing as we wound down the other half of the hill. You see, I may not be a fast climber, but I am a darn fast downhill walker. I figured we’d catch up to a lot of the folks who had passed us on the way up. And we did. Right when I was feeling pretty good about our progress and pace, we reached the final hill on our trek. It’s oddly placed and tricks people every time. Once you’ve been enjoying the downward slope of the second half of this trail for a half mile or so, you come upon a brutal upward climb. It’s not terribly long, but it’s steep—especially for the unsuspecting.
But this was far from our first time on this trail, so we had saved some energy for this last incline. We zipped past several people who had stopped on the way up or at least slowed as they navigated the unforgiving slope.
Look at us! We’re the ones passing people now. Ha!
Yeah, I’m not competitive at all. No sooner had I mentally patted myself on the back than I heard footsteps gaining on us from behind.
Those steps are way too close together. Wait—are these people running up this hill? They must be crazy. Really young and really fit, but crazy.
I consoled myself as I waited for the fellow hikers to pass. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of gray hair as the man ran by. He was quickly followed by a gal, I’m assuming his wife, who looked to be close to his age. Did I mention they were running?
I wanted to laugh, but I was so out of breath, I had to wait until we reached the top of the hill.
“Did you see those folks?” I asked my guy. “Crazy, huh? And just when I thought we weren’t doing half bad.”
He smiled, “There’s always someone doing something better than you,” he said, shrugging it off.
His words stung slightly as I realized I had again fallen victim to comparing myself to others. From being angry about my poor performance on the way up the hill, to being bummed that a couple nearly twice my age ran past me on the toughest part of the trek, I was ruining our long-awaited hike by obsessing about how I measured up to those around me.
Did I notice it was a gorgeous day? The rare kind of crisp, clear, and sunny days I wait all year for? No. Was I cherishing the uninterrupted time with my guy away from the busyness of the holidays? Not really.
Thankfully, the Lord showed this to me while we still had a couple of miles left to go. Let me tell you, what a difference an attitude of surrender and joy makes. (Okay, walking downhill may have also made it slightly better, too.) As we finished our hike, I soaked in the scenery, laughed, joked, and dreamed with my hubby, and just quietly gave thanks to God.
If you’re like me, you probably go through most of your life comparing yourself to others without even realizing it. Maybe you’re fixated on your weight, so you size up everyone you meet to see where you fall on the spectrum. Or, maybe you struggle with wanting more things, so you drool over other people’s belongings and houses. Maybe you’re insecure about your personality and abilities, so you grow envious of those who seem to have effortless charm and special skills. Whatever it is—it all leads to one thing: discontentment.
It sounds silly, but yesterday, I was unhappy with my ability to hike a trail. But this discontentment is evidence of a far more serious heart issue. Are you looking to weight, possessions, abilities, jobs, family, friends, or anything else to fill you—to give you self worth? If so, I can tell you those searches will be fruitless. You’ll be left holding that which you dreamed of and realizing that it doesn’t matter one iota after all.
But, if we seek Him—the God of the universe who formed us and loves us more than we can ever imagine—then we find our true worth. Then we have life abundantly, and peace that passes understanding, and joy that gives us strength. Then we know what it is to live in true freedom.
How has comparison robbed you of joy in the past? What can you do to live free of this thief in the days to come?