Why is it in a world of billions of people where each person has a unique set of fingerprints and DNA we spend so much precious time searching for something tangible that sets us apart from one another?
Now that I've entered into "spiritual mom" status as a 39 year old worship pastor I am asked constantly by those I mentor, "will I ever stop comparing myself to other people?"
My guess is that the Lord knew this would be a daily struggle for all of us and that's why we can find instruction in His Word on this very topic...
I love that part, "let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be..." it sounds so simple right? Then why is it SO HARD?!
I grew up in a denomination where music was a central form of worship. Everyone could sing, play an instrument and do it well. I would flip flop between the soprano and alto sections of the choir trying to find my place and believed the lie that there wasn't anything special about my gift. I felt mediocre. I felt unnoticed. Those around me seemed to have something so unique in their gifting where I felt mine lacked luster and shine in comparison.
I would often sit in the pews asking the same questions...
Why don't they want me? What's wrong with me? Do they like her better? Do they think he's a better singer? Why won't they choose me?
The longer I sat in that pew, the more I felt a gross need to make myself known and the more frustrated I became. The voice of the enemy became louder than the voice of my Father and I reacted out of hurt and confusion.
Comparing myself to other worship leaders, musicians or singers was leading me into a place of pride, of internally vowing to one day, "show them" and seek success over obedience. Suddenly, I began sulking instead of seeking. Pouting instead of praying, whining in my waiting. I became unusable in my need for justice.
I had forgotten that I didn't have to fight for a seat at the table of the Lord.
I wish I could say that at a certain age or after a certain amount of years this temptation to compare myself to others went away, but it hasn't. However, the Lord (and a lot of wise council and mentors) have taught me how to self regulate, self manage and mature as a child of God in ministry.
Rather than throw spiritual temper tantrums I've learned to ask myself these very important questions.
God, have you called me specifically to this local church or ministry?
When we are called to serve a local church or worship community we believe there is a place at the table specifically for us. Our gifts will make room for themselves as we are faithful, walk in humility and encourage those around us. If God has called you, you have a place. Nobody can take your place. You are irreplaceable to God. Does that mean that one day He may move you? Absolutely. But it's not because you aren't good enough or someone else is better. It's because He needs you and your gifts somewhere else.
Do I trust the leadership in my church or organization?
Not every assignment God gives us will bring visibility but it doesn't diminish our influence. There will be seasons you will play every week, every service and every event. There will be seasons new leaders and musicians come in and your role on the platform changes to fewer weeks, services and events. That doesn't mean that your influence for the Kingdom is any less.
Sometimes leadership knows of changes coming that will require more hands on deck, more man power and more leadership. They know you have family and friends and ministry outside of the organization and want to see you healthy enough to fully participate in other areas of life. They want to see you living your best life in Christ both in the Church and in your community!
Do you trust that they might know something you don't know?
They may see something in you and want to protect it and nurture you as you step into new levels of leadership. If you feel confused or don't understand something, ask! Don't allow assumptions to rule your emotions. Don't let the enemy get you all worked up- let the peace of God rule your mind in Christ Jesus!
Am I a safe place for other leaders?
We have all been the new kid in class or the new team member at some point in our lives. We know how scary it can be to walk into a room where people have a history and set way of doing life as a team on and off the platform. We've felt the pressure to be good enough and prove we belong and sometimes that can take months to establish trust both personally and corporately.
I have to ask myself am I a safe place for leaders as they come into my care? Do I show grace to them when they make a mistake? Am I honest and vulnerable around them when I make a mistake? Do I admit when I'm wrong? Do I share moments of weakness at appropriate times and show mercy when they do the same? Do I create an environment that allows leaders to share their hearts and fears? Do I set aside my own ambitions and dreams to listen to theirs and encourage them to pursue what God has placed on their hearts?
Competition kills community. The Holy Spirit is drawn to unity. When we make room for people at the table, He is right there with us.
So "let's just go ahead and be what we were meant to be..." and give those we lead permission to do the same. Celebrate one another and the things that make us different and the things that give us a common bond.
Let's speak life into gifts and callings as we see them in others.
Let's prefer one another, recommend one another, pray for one another.
You have a calling nobody else has been given. You can't mess it up. Nobody else can do what you have been called to do. Nobody can steal your mantel. You can't drop this mantel. You never picked it up to begin with, it is a calling that cannot be revoked.
Stop comparing yourself to other people.
Get to work. There's so much to be done and so very little time.
Natalie Runion is a worship pastor and songwriter at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO where she leads worship for weekly services and their women’s ministry, Women’s Engage. She has been leading worship for 20 years in the local church and her heart is to raise up a generation of worship leaders who are passionate about people and leading them into the presence of God.