Useless to Compete

14 12 2010

Sometimes when I read beautiful writing, or see a fabulous photograph, or find myself face to face with exquisite artwork of any type, instead of receiving with gratitude the gift God through the artist would give me, I envy. Or I despair. On one extreme I think, “I could have done that,” and on the other, “I’ll never be able to do that.” Instead of rejoicing with those God uses to beautify and inspire the world, I feel resentful or competitive or somehow less worthy. It’s as though every word of praise offered to someone else means one less potential accolade for me. Like some cosmic storehouse has been stocked with a set number of compliments, and once they’ve all been doled out, that’s it.

Such nonsense. Such silly, silly nonsense. Does the violin say to the cymbal, “I have no need of you”? No matter that the cymbal has one (loud, clanging) note and the violin many delicate ones. A violin can’t play a symphony alone. And (more to the point) the first chair violinist can’t carry the whole section alone, either. The success of one doesn’t threaten another. When we each thrive in our intended roles, all benefit.

Still, all I have to do is read through the news on my twitter feed, and I feel like a comparative failure. Then the questions start. Should I work harder, produce more, spend more time on promotion, join this group, hobnob with those insiders? How can I sell books? How can I get more blog traffic? How can I become one of the cool kids? Maybe if I invest in the latest model hamster wheel . . .

Then God steps in and puts it all in perspective.

This morning my phone rang. It was Wendy, a local woman who had contacted me days ago about picking up two signed copies of Parting the Waters today. She wanted to know if this would this be a good time, or was it too early? “Sure,” I said. “This is great. Are you in town?”

“Yes,” she said. “I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

It was around 9:40 — hardly the crack of dawn — but I can be a slow starter. I had just enough time to make the bed and change from PJ bottoms to jeans before the doorbell rang. I invited her in.

In spite of the aforementioned winds of competition, I have tried to have one prayer for Parting the Waters and one prayer only: that God would place it in the hands of people who need to read it, and that He would meet them on the pages. Wendy has on more than one occasion provided evidence that God is hearing and answering that prayer.

I handed her the books and she handed me cash. “Have you finished getting ready for Christmas?” she asked.

I shrugged and told her that Luke and Sarah would be in Japan for the holiday, and Grace, Curtis, and Harper would spend it in Washington with Curtis’ family — that we were all together for Thanksgiving, but our Christmas would be pretty simple this year.

“I’m glad to hear you’re keeping it simple,” she said. Then she told me about a recent experience. She said she’d laid out her daughters’ Christmas gifts to take stock and realized one had more than the other two. She was fretting about how to even things out when she heard a noise. Something on her shelf had fallen over. It was a sign she’d made containing the phrase Jacob had posted over his bedroom door, “Today is the greatest day, and I am in it.”

Wendy said it was like a gentle slap from the Lord and she thanked Him for redirecting her focus. She turned to leave and added, “Also, I wanted to tell you I ordered the album* yesterday. When I told my kids they said, ‘Mom, you’re starstruck.'” She laughed. “I guess I am a little.”

Starstruck? We stood there, side by side, me in my sweatshirt, wool socks and scuffed up Birkenstock sandals, my “look” completed by bed hair and no make up — her looking adorable with her hair and make up all in order, dangly earrings, and a cool sweater-poncho thing. I know Wendy to be an amazing mom and creative artist, and she’s starstruck? Over us?

I hugged her good-bye. As she stepped out the door, I told her what an encouragement she has been to me. I also wanted her to know how imperfect we are. How fallible. But as she walked away, I realized it’s not about us at all. It’s about God’s work in and through us. She doesn’t believe today is the greatest day and she is in it because Jacob taped it above his door and I wrote about it in a book. She believes it because God met her on the pages of a story and gave her a gift, and she was open to receive it with gratitude. As I should be when He offers me the same through someone else. When I refuse, I’m the one who loses.

One of the songs on “the album” is titled Useless to Compete. The lyrics are below. (Unfortunately you can’t hear the mournful cello and haunting harmonies on paper.)

True love,
it takes you as,
as you are
But true love
won’t let you stay
who you are not

It’s okay,
there is time
to sort it out,
to straighten out
what is twisted,
what is false.

True friends
remind you who
who you are
And true friends
won’t let you stay
who you are not

It’s okay,
there is time
to sort it out,
to straighten out
what is twisted,
what is false.

You don’t have to prove anything
It’s useless to compete
The field is big enough
And meant for all, meant for all

Your gift is not less because it’s not as flashy or hip as someone else’s. And neither is mine. We’re all bits and pieces of this funky masterpiece God is creating, and He knows exactly what He’s about.

The field is big enough and meant for all. Go in peace, my creative friends, to love and serve the Lord.

*December 15th is the LAST DAY to pre-order Jubilee’s new release, To See You Well, for Christmas. This album is gorgeous. (I may be a bit starstruck myself.) Details here!


I added this post to Peter Pollock’s One Word at a Time Blog Carnival. The topic is “Rejoice.” Stop by his blog to read more entries.



9 responses

15 12 2010
Patricia (Pollywog Creek)

Oh, Jeanne!!! You have no idea how much I needed to read this today. Truly. You are a beautiful, gifted woman who inspires me in a multitude of ways. You are God’s gift to me across the miles between your corner of the world and mine. Blessings and much love, Patricia

15 12 2010

Thank you, Patricia. I’m so glad this post was timely for you. Your wholehearted acceptance and friendship enrich my life. Thanks for blessing me and many others through your gorgeous photographs and words. Much love to you in your (currently frozen?) corner of the world.

15 12 2010
deb@talk at the table

I sure do love you Jeanne.

15 12 2010

I sure do love you, too, Deb. Surely sure.

15 12 2010

I’m blinking back tears. It’s been a few bumpy days and I needed to read this–a reminder of God’s greatness and goodness. Thank you.

15 12 2010

You’re welcome with all my heart, Carol. I pray our great and good God smooths the bumps and soothes your soul with His presence and His grace.

15 12 2010

I think I’m starstruck too. 🙂

And now I have an album to add to my wish list…right beside Parting the Waters. You bless me, Jeanne. I am so glad to have found you in this place, to get to know you and your family through your words and photos, and…well, I understand.

Sometimes I need a gentle slap from God too. I think maybe today was one of those days. 🙂

16 12 2010

You bless me too, Laura, as you paint the poetic colors of your life day by day. I’m honored that you want to read our story, and I hope you do get a chance to hear this album. I sat with headphones on and intentionally listened to the whole thing as a “favor” to the band — they wanted critical feedback before their final mixing session — and I just melted. Every nuance, every note a part of an interwoven ballet that danced in my ears and moved my heart. I can’t wait for others to hear it!

Have a beautiful Christmas, friend.

18 12 2010
Hazel I. Moon

Great Post and my feelings mirror yours at times. Feeling lost amongst those who poetically write with their beautiful words, I often feel like homespun, and then I realize that we are all called to do what He asks of us. In our own way, we each reach those who are reachable to us and perhaps not reachable to others. I rejoice in the social net works that transport our writings to places unknown to us and our prayer is that Jesus be lifted up for He is the Reason. Bless you my dear for you are indeed beautiful in your jeans and sweat shirt !!

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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