Stop comparing, start believing
December 14, 2019
The postlude played. I stood at the sanctuary door, greeting congregants as they made their way to coffee hour. On this day, though, I wasn’t sharing pleasantries as I shook hands, I was anointing with oil a hand of each person exiting the sanctuary, As I made the sign of a cross on each palm, I gave a blessing: Be the beautiful you God sees you to be.
As I did this, I realized that the blessing was for me as well. It was a reminder to stop comparing my little church with the church down the road, up the road, across the road — wherever. Just stop.
Be the beautiful you God sees you to be.
I heard a similar message years ago as a teen. It was the first day of my freshman year. I was sitting on the front step of my house, waiting for my friend. Ever since kindergarten, I had been excited to see her and get to school, but now I was filled with anxiety. New teachers, new courses — algebra and intro to German made me nervous — and the question of whether I should try out for cheerleading weighed on me. I couldn’t do a split, and my cartwheels looked more like a wheel had fallen off the cart. My friend, whom I finally saw coming down the street, was definitely cheerleader material.
I began feeling sick. Maybe I was turning green or maybe it was the nervous twirling of my hair that made my dad take notice and give me some sound advice: Just be yourself.
His words have followed me throughout my life. Still, there are times I look over at the proverbial grass and insist that it is indeed greener. There are times I find myself twirling my hair, wondering if I’m good enough to do the tasks that God has placed in my hands. But God has ways of reminding us that we are up to the task, like putting the idea of a “beautiful you” blessing in my head.
The idea came to me as I looked at the congregation during the last hymn of the morning. We’re small in number and are on the older side of the age spectrum. In the summer, the pews fill with worshipers in town to enjoy their lake houses. Come winter, we’re fewer in number and tend to talk a lot about the latest snow forecast — and when will our snowbirds return? Oh, and session has accepted the invitation to become a Matthew 25 congregation. But as I looked out at my congregation, I couldn’t help but to think of those Matthew 25 churches doing bold ministries that I’ve been hearing about. My church isn’t tackling structural racism right now. We aren’t breaking the cycle of systemic poverty — yet. And vitality? What are we being asked to do?
I went to twirl my hair but stopped suddenly. Just be ourselves, I heard in my heart. Be our beautiful, beloved selves, created by God and equipped with gifts to glorify God. And so, I took hands and blessed them. I blessed a child’s hand so small and soft, with potential to help others not yet known. I blessed the hands of two teenage girls whose nervous giggles soon gave way to silent awe. I blessed elderly hands with paper-thin skin. I held onto those hands longer, as if to assure those they belonged to that God was not done with them. And I blessed the hand of a middle-aged woman who walked with a cane. Her hand was not very steady as she held it out to me. After the blessing, she whispered, “Thank you.” As precarious steps led her away, I could see the hand I had blessed curled into a tight fist, as if she didn’t want to let go of the blessing, of the truth she heard. I am beautiful. I have a purpose.
The “beautiful you” blessing has been my congregation’s start on our Matthew 25 journey. I share it with you so that it may be your start to a new church year. A reminder to never doubt your abilities and that the grass isn’t greener on the other church’s lawn. Just be the beautiful you God sees you to be.
Donna Frischknecht Jackson, Editor of Presbyterians Today
Today’s Focus: You are Beautiful
Let us join in prayer for:
Let us pray:
Holy God, your gifts are overwhelming, and the power of your Spirit is great. We pray this day for small membership churches. Jesus began the church with just 12 people, and in the power of the Spirit they changed the world. Moving forward, empowered by that same spirit, may we do likewise. Amen.