Fit Faith: Limit: S.T.O.P.!

What stops you? When are you in the middle of a journey and a bit red stop sign seems to appear out of nowhere, nearly hitting you in the head and screaming, “STOP!”? Think about when you’re working out. What’s your limit? What screams out to you, demanding you stop? If you don’t work out, perhaps you should consider what screams “stop” at you when you momentarily consider getting off the couch or outside your busy routine?

Our limits are relative.

I was at the post office on a particularly cold winter day. I had decided not to walk outside. I didn’t want to bundle up as tightly as an Eskimo so I either couldn’t move or I’d start to sweat under my many layers. I’d get on the elliptical later in the day.

As I was standing at the window, I heard a man’s voice behind me ask, “Did you walk this morning?”

I walk regularly, so many people know me, if not by name, by my routine of walking.

I admitted I had decided it was too cold.

“What?! We’re going to have a lot colder days than this!”

Yes, he was right. Of course, he had walked. He wasn’t bragging. He was encouraging, letting me know I could persevere. The cold didn’t have to stop me. He was right.

This is the man who walks by my house every morning. He only misses a few days a year. He’s quite a bit older than me, and he has significant physical challenges. He often walks with a tall walking stick. His walking gait doesn’t seem comfortable to me, but he’s moving – quite quickly, I might add. He enjoys walking, because he can walk. He knows if he stops, he’s going to lose the already limited range of his ability to walk. He appreciates what he can do, so he doesn’t let what he thinks he can’t do limit him.

I’m motivated – and convicted – every time I see him walking. If he can get outside on a regular basis and push though discomfort, weather and schedule conflicts, I certainly can. He walks because he can. His limits are beyond mine even though I can physically do things he can’t. I think.

Everything I see has its limits, but your commands have none. (Psalm 119:96)

Our Lord is great and very powerful. There is no limit to what he knows. (Psalm 147:5)

What’s your spiritual limit? How are you limited your faith? When does discomfort make you pause or stop? When do you press your hands tightly over your ears to block out the conviction to move, change and grow?

God provides limits for you. He has boundaries for you, because he loves you. He knows you need limits for focus and security. We don’t have to limit ourselves. We only have to listen to God’s limits and live by them. It’s not as easy as it seems. We can refuse to listen. We can think we heard one thing when God is actually saying something else. We can rationalize what we think God is saying to justify what we want.

God is unlimited. We cannot limit him even if we try.

You don’t need to compare yourself to others. Comparisons cause you to either feel inferior because of what others are doing or feel superior because of what others aren’t doing. God doesn’t define you based on who others are. He defines you on who he created you to be.

Fit Faith: Competition: I Don’t Want to Win!

Some of us are more competitive than others. Perhaps you’re someone who makes a competition out of everything. Or perhaps you try to insure everyone wins somehow. I remember one of the first trips I made to Alabama with my husband. We didn’t simply race to get there ahead of the others who were travelling the same route. We raced against the “best all-time travel time”! Whomever held the record still raced against their own record to make it better and more of a challenge for everyone else.

Perhaps as a kneejerk response to my husband’s competitiveness, I declared I wasn’t competitive. I didn’t want to play card games if everyone was going to tease each other for making a dumb mistake or falling behind. I love to watch football, but I wasn’t going to get so tied up in who won that my blood pressure dangerously sky-rocketed. If I was going to play, I wanted to play nicely. I didn’t want to complete – or so I tried to convince myself.

On a scale from 1 to 10, how competitive would you rate yourself?

In what areas do you most avoid competition or simply don’t care to invest?

In what areas are you most competitive?

I’ve changed my ways. I’m now convinced every person is competitive in some way. We choose to invest in specific areas and usually compete in those areas. Being competitive isn’t just about playing on a sports field or trying to demolish someone in a board game. You can be just as competitive with yourself in the activities of daily life. Someone who likes to coupon will usually compete with others and herself to get the best deal. Someone who likes to shop might compete for the best deals or the best brands. Some compete in spending the most money or driving the best car.

What about the kind of phone you use? Do you compare yourself with others or want a phone which does more? Perhaps you compete by arguing with others or trying to teach others more and more about the specific topics you clearly know more about than most everyone else. You might compete by feeling sorry for yourself, convincing yourself and everyone else that no one has a harder life than you. Perhaps you compete with your family or your past or your future, always comparing how things are with how they should have been or should now be. You might compete at work.

Are you still convinced you’re not competitive? Perhaps you’re competitive in the area of who is the least competitive!

Competition often appears to be about accomplishment, but at its root, it’s typically about comparison. Two people, teams, skills, or goals are compared, and one has to be assigned higher value or accomplishment than the other. We can change the values given during the competition at any time and declare someone else the winner. Where two things can be compared, a winner (and loser) can always be declared.

What is your standard for measurement? If it’s always changing, your comparative values will change as well. You will be unable to assess change and growth because the plumb line moves. You might compare yourself to your mom one day, your sister the next, and your best friend the next. If you’re feeling down about yourself, you’ll probably compare yourself to someone you see as better, and you’ll feel worse. If you’re feeling good about yourself, you’ll usually compare yourself to someone who you think you exceed in some way, and you’ll continue to feel good.

God doesn’t tell us to compare ourselves to anyone but him.

We do not dare to compare ourselves with those who think they are very important. They use themselves to measure themselves, and they judge themselves by what they themselves are. This shows that they know nothing. But we will not brag about things outside the work that was given us to do. We will limit our bragging to the work that God gave us, and this includes our work with you. (2 Corinthians 10:12-13)

God defines us. He is our plumb line. We can certainly compete, but let’s compete in God’s standards of how obedient we are on our personal faith journeys with God.

Camoflauge and Comparisons

Are you trying to blend in or stand out? Either way, you’re comparing yourself to others in the process.

Some of us like to blend in. We don’t want extra attention. We don’t want to stand in the spotlight. We want to be pretty much like our peers. Think back to high school days. Girls go on shopping trips together to get the same shirt in different colors. Even as they get older, they call each other to find out what type of outfit the others are wearing, so they’re not too casual or too formal. Women choose the trendy haircut over the most flattering. They’re willing to go to the movie of their friends’ choosing because they don’t want to create waves. They don’t want to bring up a concern or question in a meeting or small group study, because they don’t want to sound dumb or draw attention to themselves.

Some of us like to stand out. We don’t want to blend in. We want to be noticed for being different. Think back to high school days. Some girls didn’t set the trends; they rebelled against the trends. They determined their own style. Women choose what they wear because they like it regardless of what anyone else plans to wear. They’re not uncomfortable when they show up in something less casual or more formal than everyone else. They get the haircut they want even if it’s a different color, length, and style from everyone else. They’ll sometimes speak out just to speak out. They won’t be silent for long, and they definitely won’t hesitate to ask a question or voice a concern.

What’s your default setting?

How are comparing yourself to others – either to blend in or rebel?

We think we’ve grown beyond such high school tactics, but I think we just get trickier about it.

Do you shop where your friends shop?

Do you feel bad (or good) about your weight when you’re around your friends?

How often do you respond based on what others might think? (Remember your response might be to create no waves or purposefully create waves in a situation.)

Do you do things “because I’m independent, and I can,” or do you yield to what you assume someone else’s expectations are before you even ask?

Of course, we should have respect for others, and we need to consider what’s appropriate for various situations and relationships, but God doesn’t require us to compare ourselves to others. If he did, we’d never be good enough next to someone like Mother Teresa but never be as bad as Adolf Hitler. The truth is we respond in love and service and in selfishness and disrespect. God sets the standards; we don’t. No human authority trumps God.

Compare yourself to God using his perspective. There will always be room for growth, but he won’t overwhelm you with conviction of what you’re doing wrong or puff you up with what you’re doing well. Neither is consistent with his character. He knows just what you need to hear and see in order to be challenged to grow. Faith is definitely a challenge, but it will not be overwhelming even when it feels as if it is. God will keep you humble without squashing you. When you’re guided by his Spirit, you will experience life in the timing and way best for you – not your best friend, sister, mom, or mentor.

You were created in God’s image. He wants you to blend in to his identity. He wants you to stand out as a witness to others. Stay in his presence. He’ll clothe you in his righteousness, and you will glow with his beauty.

So God created human beings in his image. In the image of God he created them. He created them male and female. (Genesis 1:27)

Whoever pursues righteousness and unfailing love will find life, righteousness, and honor. (Proverbs 21:21)

Comparing Designs

I found some notebooks with blank mosaic designs on the cover – the kind with intricate designs, bold black lines and white spaces to color. I bought a bundle for women’s events. (Coloring for adults? Um, yes! It’s relaxing. It’s easy to talk to each other while coloring. It’s something just about everyone can do.) I had extras, so my youngest daughter and I decided to grab the Sharpies and express our creativity.

We took different approaches: choosing corresponding colors and making predictable patterns versus randomly using as many colors as possible. The colors began to pop off the page. We worked and worked until our projects were complete. I looked at my daughter’s and thought, “Hers is so much better than mine.” I really wanted to use hers as an example instead of mine. I told her I might have her complete my notebook the next time. Hers seemed more presentable and attractive than mine.

However, I used mine as an example at an event. I didn’t take my daughter’s, although I tried to explain her approach to give people additional options. I received many compliments on mine, and I realized neither of our designs were more beautiful. Both were colorful. Each was unique. Both started with bold lines and plenty of white space for possibilities. Both portrayed a lot of effort. Both had what might be considered as mistakes, but in most cases, “mistakes” were indiscernible or had spurred a new idea for design.

God creates each of us in his image. We begin with his design. He has a finished design in mind; in fact, he knows what we’ll look like in the final moments of our lives and every other moment. He knows our mistakes, struggles with choices, lack of motivation, aches from effort, disinterest, and rationale behind our choices. He also knows how we’ll compare ourselves to others and decide we’re more or less beautiful, messy, and appealing.

How do you compare yourself to others?

Comparing ourselves to others isn’t helpful. The only accurate comparison is to God. He’s our designer, and he’s the definer of beautiful design. When we seek his perspective of us, we’re as realistic as we can possibly be. We see ourselves as God sees us – no more, no less.

How do you see your design in the context of God’s design for you?

Each person should judge his own actions and not compare himself with others. Then he can be proud for what he himself has done. Each person must be responsible for himself. (Galatians 6:4-5)