For some things, we’re twins. We’re both crazy about breakfast food and trips to the library. We both enjoy having friends over for dinner and talking about what we’re learning. We both love having a mug of steaming coffee in our hands and sitting close on the couch. We both delight in the sound of rain on the roof while we’re snuggled up, warm in our bed.
But for some things we’re totally different. I like picking my outfit for how it will make me feel and if it is cute. He picks his outfit almost entirely based on functionality. I like flowers because they are beautiful. He likes flowers only if they smell good. I read historical fiction and children’s books for fun. He reads about building houses and working out for fun.
The other night, he was pacing around our bedroom, clearly thinking about something. I asked if he wanted to tell me what was going on in his head. My dear husband began to excitedly share about what he was learning; he spoke quickly and full of energy about workouts and reps and building muscle.
As I listened, big fat tears started to well in my eyes. Without even meaning to, I had stopped listening to what my husband was saying and had started to tell myself a different story. The story I was telling myself was that I wasn’t good enough. That I hadn’t worked out in a few weeks since being sick. That he would leave me behind in the dust and I would be alone in my workouts. That I wouldn’t be able to do the things he was talking about. That I was losing my workout buddy. That I was weak and small and not enough.
Oh, how I wish I could say my heart’s first response was to celebrate and appreciate my husband’s interest in physical fitness.
That the story I told myself was one of gratitude for a friend who wants to tell me what is exciting to him.
That I was thankful for someone who puts no pressure on me to do what he is doing.
That I appreciated having a husband who invites me to be part of the things he’s pumped about.
But instead, I told myself a story of shame and loneliness and comparison.
Thankfully, this time, that story was short-lived as my tears were noticed, my fears named, grace offered and we declared truth over working out, all in a matter of minutes.
But I’m afraid my tendency to compare is not so easily resolved.
So often, I compare myself to the people around me.
I don’t even know I’m doing it half the time.
I think I can scroll through Instagram and enjoy my friends’ photos. Sometimes I can. But too often, comparison sneaks in and my heart feels empty and alone.
Instead of seeing our differences and celebrating them, I’m threatened by them and start to tell myself the subtle lie that I’m not enough. Or that they’re not enough.
I pull myself away because I, for a moment, feel bigger or smaller than them. Comparison is a tremendous isolator.
But I don’t think comparison is the problem.
I see comparison as merely the symptom of something deeper.
Last week I read Heather Holleman’s book, Seated With Christ. At first, it felt all too familiar. Another book on Christian living. I almost skimmed through verses I knew and her first pages about loving Jesus, barely slowing down to let them sink into my heart. But somewhere in that writing, my heart couldn’t help but pause and listen. I started hearing Heather’s words for what they were, not just rhetoric and jargon. This woman believed, really believed the truth she was saying. And it is changing me.
She speaks about the verse in Ephesians 2, where we are told that we are seated with Christ. As a professor, she shares how this verb of “seated” communicates so very much. Like she tells her students, she tells the reader, “A great verb can change your life!” (22)
She talks about being seated as being addressed to all believers. There is a sense of togetherness, and emphasizes what an astonishing togetherness it was for Jews and Gentiles to be seated together. Being seated communicates a special place of honor, a royal setting, if you will. And the verb provides a sense of rest and relaxation, safety and celebration. She tells us this verb is current tense. We aren’t waiting for the day when this will happen. We are already seated with Christ. If we are a follower of Jesus, this is true for us today.
As an illustration to her verb lesson, this Pennsylvanian author shares of a quote from the museum guide to the Hayden Planetarium, that deeply resonated with her…and my little heart too.
The guidebook states, “All seats provide equal viewing of the universe.” I read it out loud, and the truth of it seemed to catch in my throat. I emailed the media director at the Hayden Planetarium to learn more about this quote. I corresponded with a woman who said that the planetarium is designed so that no matter where you sit, you see the exact same images. No matter where you sit, you won’t miss any part of the show.
No matter where you sit, you won’t miss anything. I almost burst into tears. I imagined all the children on field trips racing into the planetarium auditorium as the doors swing open. I imagine them all fighting for the best seats in an arena that has no best seats. I imagine the calm voice of the tour guide saying, “Children, all seats provide equal viewing of the universe.” (59)
Heather is blown away by the revelation that speaks loudly to her heart. She shares with her daughter.
“Do you know what this means?” I asked. “It means that no matter where you are, you have an equal chance to perceive the beauty of God. All seats are equal. You can stop fighting for a special seat. Your seat is the special seat. All the seats are the special seats.” (60)
My heart had to pause and let this truth sink into my heart. My place, my location, my circumstances, this is my special seat. This seat is equal to that of my husband’s, my neighbor’s, my friend’s. This seat provides me with an equal chance to perceive the beauty of God as anyone else’s. My seat is the special seat.
Heather also shares the metaphor of King Arthur’s Round Table, sitting at a table with no head or foot. We all have a seat. We are all equal, ready to serve our King Jesus, as we sit around this table.
As I read her words, I see where my comparison symptom stems from.
I see myself, not at a round table, but at a long rectangular one. I’m trying to prove I deserve to be at the table, and perhaps, trying to earn a seat closer to the front.
I see myself, not as having a seat that is equal to viewing the universe, but as a greedy, anxious child, running around the Planetarium, hoping to snag the best seat.
I see myself as needing to prove and earn and merit my spot at the table, when in fact, I have done nothing to deserve being there.
Jesus has done everything for me to be seated with him. It is a grace to be offered my seat. When I believe that, my comparison symptom start to fade away.
When I believe that my seat is equal for serving Jesus, my heart is content.
When I believe that my seat is not earned but a gift, my heart is at rest.
When I believe that my seat is an equal chance to perceive the beauty of God, I am eager to be fully present where the Lord has placed me.
When I see myself as seated with Christ, there is no space for comparison.
Heather shares several stories of experiences with people she onced envied. One is a conversation with two women, sharing about their lavish vacations. I love how utterly transformed this conversation feels, from a belief that her seat is equal.
I found myself joyously laughing with her about all the incredible experiences she would have with this amazing family God had given her. I talked about all the seafood and steaks she’d enjoy. I visualized us seated together in Christ in the heavenly realms. I knew God had chosen to pour some wonderful things into my friend’s life, and I felt–for the first time in my life–freedom from jealousy or comparison.
All seats provide equal viewing of the universe. My simple vacation could be just as filled with the glory of God as hers. But it went deeper than that; I didn’t even want to compare. It seemed silly, like someone comparing avocados to coffee. Why would I? It makes no sense. (60-61)
She loved big, instigated laughter, and was never afraid to get dirty. She extended herself in every direction to meet my siblings and me in love. She showed me how to dig worms, clean fish, and enjoy the labor of the garden. She taught me that life was seldom what you expected, but you could endure. Her hard was different from my own, but she showed me there was joy even in the harsh disappointments of life. Her farm was my sanctuary. In her home, I was the cherished granddaughter. I was the favorite, but my sister, Jonna, would tell you she was the favorite, as would my brother Dennis. That was how big her love was, deep and wide enough to embrace us all. (24)
When I see myself as seated with my Christ, this is how it feels.
I believe, like Kara, that I am the favorite. But I can also see that he is the favorite. And she is the favorite. And her and him. They are the favorite too.
I feel cherished and loved. I am looking at the life Jesus is asking me to live as my spot at the table.
It is special. It is a gift. It is underserved. It is life abundant.
I am invited. I am wanted. I have an equal view of the universe.
By the grace of God, my heart will choose to trust that this seat is the best seat for me, just as someone else’s seat is the best seat for them.
My life might not look like others. My life might not look like the pictures in my head.
But I choose to believe that my life is better than all of those, because this is the life God is asking me to live.
This is my seat at the table.
*I only shared a small portion of the depth of truth that is contained in Heather’s book, Seated With Christ. I can’t recommend this book enough. She is living the way that I long to live. She is following Jesus the way I hope to follow Jesus. I want to be like Heather when I grow up, because she is becoming like Jesus. She writes about the nitty gritty of everyday life, how to move past theological truths to truly live what you say you believe. I felt Jesus in these pages. Please, please do your heart a favor and read this book. I will warn you though, the questions she asks and the truth she presents can not be ignored. You will have to make a decision of whether you want to know Jesus more than literally anything else. 5/5 for me.
Moody Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of “Seated With Christ,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255