Less than or equal to

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.



8 thoughts on “Less than or equal to”

  1. Powerful message here, right to the heart. I’ve just used a Sharpie pen to draw these maths signs on every single ruler in my pencil case and art box, as a little prompt to remind me of this from time to time!
    Thanks for sharing.


  2. Really love your thoughts and drawings Ellie. I also like the way you are prepared to be honest about the struggles we all have, as it gives your readers permission to be honest too. We live in a world of comparisons and the manic, target-driven culture that surrounds us only reinforces this. The ability to step back and listen to what God says is a powerful gift. Thank you for sharing it with us 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Deborah. Blogging has been an interesting exercise in feeling exposed, my least favourite emotion. But I love that God uses the postcards to speak to people and I always enjoy the process of praying about, painting and then writing them. Thanks for the encouragement!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I read your post on Facebook by mistake and thought I was coming here to read about rules. Then I found it was rulers. But I see why! Good post. A vivid image of the way our minds work so that we constantly come up short in our own estimations.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very thought provoking, Ellie, and so true for all of us. I’m sure we all carry a set of these rulers, I know I do, and we use them frequently to measure ourselves against others. I don’t use actual rulers very often, but I will carry this visual image with me and he them out when I find myself in comparison mode! So glad you are continuing with your postcards.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That made me cry. 🙂 Touched something somewhere. God is definitely at work through your posts my friend. Coffee date long overdue? ………… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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