I went to a bible study this week that was all about grace, about how wonderful and life changing it is when others love us in spite of our failings and unlovableness. When they choose not to punish us for our mistakes, and instead continue to love us and be good to us, just as God has done.
And it was funny because I was sitting there in a beautiful room surrounded by beautifully turned out, slim women who had managed to remember to put their make up on and were wearing co-ordinating clothes, none of which bore evidence of breakfast. Our lovely hostess had baked something delicious and the only signs of her four children were in artistically framed photos on the wall. Everyone was friendly and relaxed and I really should have been feeling loved and welcomed and comfortable, but mostly, I was feeling ‘less than’.
I am so glad that we were discussing the extraordinary power of grace, because right in the middle of that bible study God graciously whispered in my ear that I was being ridiculous, and showed me this picture of a pocket sized set of rulers which have the maths symbols for ‘less than’, equal to’ and ‘greater than’ printed on the side.
He showed me that these rulers are the ways I measure (judge) the value of those around me and myself. I’m fairly sure that everyone has a set somewhere. We use them to make comparisons:
By this standard, am I less than, equal to, or greater in value than this other person?
Each ruler represents a standard that we use to measure value- beauty, education, money, intelligence, job importance, talent, youth, home, grades, fame, accent, nationality, body shape, hairstyle, grammar, ministry, ability to spell, popularity, organisation, sporting prowess and a billion other things.. And there’s not just one ruler in my pocket, there’s a collection! We all pick (or have been handed) a unique set, the things that we use to measure value – our own and other people’s.
Heartbreakingly, We use these rulers even though we know they are all lies.
We all know that being prettier, or tidier, or better at art, or football, or slimmer, or richer, or better dressed doesn’t actually make you more valuable… and yet, when the ruler tells me I am ‘less than’. It doesn’t feel good. If it tells me I am ‘more than’ it makes me feel quietly a little better.
So, somewhere in the middle of this bible study, God and I had a little chuckle together. Because there I was, talking about grace and what it means, and at the same time, in the background I was struggling with my rulers.
And while he was smiling, God said to me, “Put them down”.
Grace is choosing to live with no value-rulers. None for measuring yourself, none for measuring other people.
Grace is not measuring.
Grace is accepting that value comes from nowhere else than that we are made in the image of God, and loved by him.
I know that that sounds outrageous and difficult and wonderful and maybe impossible, but hey, that’s grace for you…
It’s actually a big deal that God is calling me to here – giving up comparison, giving up the need to calculate, “less than, equal to or greater than”. I hope that some of you will look at this picture and feel him calling you to it too.
Put down the rulers. Choose to live without them.
Comparison is toxic. Grace is beautiful. Let’s do it.