Winning or Losing: Are we even in the game?
“If you’re not smashing Brussels sprouts, you’re doing it wrong.” Seriously. That’s what it said on Facebook, so it must be true; so another thing I have been losing at all these years.
We see the blog posts and memes all the time… if you aren’t cleaning house this way, if you aren’t raising kids this way, if you aren’t blowing your nose this way… you’re doing it wrong.
If you don’t support this party you’re an imbecile, if you don’t vote this way you’re a hater, if you agree with that you’re a racist, if you disagree with the other thing you’re a sexist.
Honestly, is there anything we’re doing right? Who made up the rules, and where can we find the rulebook? Is there one? How can we win if we don’t know the game? Why do we always seem to be losing? Does anyone win? Can anyone? Is there a prize? Are we all losers? Who decides?
Clearly, these types of rules are arbitrary. There’s more than one way to make Brussels sprouts that are delicious (or maybe some of you might say there’s no way to make Brussels sprouts delicious). What about the guidelines we use to judge ourselves? Can we win then? I’m not sure.
I think that we are not above establishing make-believe sets of measures, then using those imaginary standards to compare ourselves to others, and then – by the very benchmarks we have created ourselves –we declare ourselves the loser.
I’m not making this up! For example, when did you last compare yourself to someone else and feel like you were the winner? Have you ever? Who established the standard by which you judged yourself a failure, incomplete, unsatisfactory, unworthy, missing out, unsuccessful, a poor spouse, a terrible parent, a bad _____ (you fill in the blank); a loser?
When we feel like we’re failures, is it because we’re looking at ourselves as less, or is it that we look at other people through the lens of our own imperfection and we think that they are more? If we only had what they have, we’d be happy. Clearly, everyone else is happier than we are, so it must be because of what they have.
When we look at other people, we can only see their circumstances, and most of us only share the positive circumstances. And how is it that we judge our own lives and hearts by other people’s circumstances? Circumstances are nothing but temporal conditions in which we find ourselves living – and circumstances can change on a dime.
Who decided which circumstances are win-worthy, covetous-worthy, envy-worthy, or loser-worthy? What body shape is enviable? How much education wins? How many followers or likes is covetable? How strong is strong enough? How small is too small? How much happiness is sufficient? How sad is too sad?
When we compare ourselves to other people, we will usually compare unfavorably because we imagine standards in which we fall short. However, there is one area where we almost always win! Our righteousness!
According to our arbitrary scales of rightness, of goodness, of holiness, we typically find something in everybody else that is a little less than what we think we see in ourselves. It is easy to say that we are not as bad as that one – whoever that one might be.
However, the one Person who sets the standard for righteousness is Jesus, and we will never be as good as him. Imagine being his friend on Social Media – or his sibling! Well, we are his friend, and his sibling, if we are Christians, and yes, we will never be as good as him.
But, we don’t have to worry – God knew that we would never be able to live up to his standard of holiness, of perfection – and since only perfect people get into heaven – God made a way for us. Jesus, the only perfectly holy and righteous one, died in our place on the cross. It was at the cross where our sin was exchanged for his righteousness, where our sin was punished. Jesus was made sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Amazingly, when God looks at those of us who are Christians, he does not see our short-comings, he sees Jesus’s perfect righteousness imputed to us. God forever thinks of Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us.
Taking this into a broader realm – if God thinks of me as righteous which is the criteria for spending an eternity with him, then he surely must not think of me as a failure if my house sometimes looks like a toddler tornado blew through, or my thighs are wrinkled, or my friend list is small. I don’t think he counts my “likes”, but I do know he records all my tears.