When I think of public school, I think of sharpened pencils, tiny desks, and playing tag at recess. I remember each grade as if it were yesterday, and even remember the feeling that came as September neared and so did the first day back to school.
What I remember most, however, was sitting in my grade three class, and staring at a poster that hung over the chalkboard at the front of the room, day after day. It was one of those incredibly cheesy posters that teachers bought copious amounts of at book fairs, designed to encourage kids to do their best. It read, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” I read that poster every single day and found such grace in it. “I don’t have to be perfect? I don’t have to be like everyone else?”
I found freedom in such a thought until I didn’t.
Fast forward a few years. I sit in a lecture hall waiting for the start of my first university course, “Introduction to Art and Art History” at the University of Toronto. I am surrounded by 350 students, more or less. We all know that by the end of the first semester, a quarter of us will be gone. By the end of the year, half of us will be gone, because we couldn’t handle the pressure, couldn’t maintain high enough grades, and couldn’t compete with fellow students who also wanted to pursue a career in the same field of study. So, in other words, let the competition begin.
A post on Instagram, a comment at work, even a remark at church can leave us wondering what we are doing with our lives. For me, this is definitely the case as I see friends post about courses they have taken, trips they have gone on, and yes… even #couplegoals that they have reached.
At 26, it seems like everyone is either getting married, having babies or finding their “true calling,” while I am a single, working adult who deals with mental illness and lives with two cats. Harsh, I know…
A few months ago this close-minded depiction of myself was what I believed to be true. I even questioned God’s purpose for me, as in my mind I had shot for the moon, missed the stars completely, and landed in a field.
Comparisonitis and perfection, I believe, are closely related. From a young age, many of us have been taught that perfection equals reward, and reward equals recognition. Take the chart of golden stars that every classroom had when most of us were in public school, for example. Every time a star was added next to a name, a student was automatically called out for their greatness and compared to everyone else in the room… It was thought to encourage good work and behaviour, but what about the kids who struggled with school, or had difficult situations at home which affected how they treated others? While this raised some students up, it pushed others down.
The thing is, God didn’t ask us for perfection. How could He when He knows that it is something that eludes us. It would be unfair, inhuman and not in His character. He also didn’t ask for us to compare ourselves with others. Psalm 139:13-14 says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” How can we argue with the God of creation, who made sense out of chaos and life out of dust? If He says we are fearfully and wonderfully made, we need to accept it as truth!
One of my favourite Bible verses is 1 Corinthians 12:12-14. It says, “There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ. We were all baptized by one Holy Spirit. And so we are formed into one body. It didn’t matter whether we were Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free people. We were all given the same Spirit to drink. So the body is not made up of just one part. It has many parts.”
Yes, we are different, and yes we have different lives to lead, but it’s all a part of God’s big and beautiful plan. When we compare ourselves or our lives to someone else’s, how must that make God feel after He crafted us and recorded our days in His book with such love and grace?
Comparisonitis and perfection are hard to break free from, especially if they are entwined together. For God, however, nothing is too difficult to untangle and make right. There are many ways that we as Christians can begin to recognize our beauty, our potential, and God’s plan. Whether it be through prayer, counseling, reading the Bible, writing, or even having coffee dates with friends, God is working on our hearts, our minds and our perception of who we really are.
There may be tears, there may be times of uncertainty, or there may be prayers of frustration and fear, but with each day God is nurturing and calling us forward on a journey to lead us into the greatness that He has personally crafted for us.
In imperfection there is exquisiteness, in uniqueness there is beauty.