As I spent Saturday doing whatever was needed for this retreat, I started to question myself a little bit. "Man, I feel kind of bad I only signed up for today. I feel pretty good and energetic right now, and I could probably last the entire weekend!" Yes, I was zonked out as I drove home and climbed into bed after an 18-hour day, but I still had that nagging feeling of maybe I should have signed up to stay and serve longer. The next morning I drug myself out of bed and hauled myself to 11 a.m. Mass with nausea and a headache, and it hit me: This is why I only served for one day. As I sat in the pew, praying and listening to the readings, I thought about how different each person is. And wouldn't you know, the Second Reading at Mass hit me like a brick:
Brothers and sisters:There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord;there are different workings but the same Godwho produces all of them in everyone.To each individual the manifestation of the Spiritis given for some benefit.To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom;to another, the expression of knowledge according to thesame Spirit;to another, faith by the same Spirit;to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit;to another, mighty deeds;to another, prophecy;to another, discernment of spirits;to another, varieties of tongues;to another, interpretation of tongues.But one and the same Spirit produces all of these,distributing them individually to each person as he wishes. (1 Cor 12:4-11)One of the things that I keep learning (and re-learning, and re-learning) is that we are all different. We all have different gifts, and we each have different needs. Furthermore, we need to focus on what God is calling each of us to do, and do that as best as we can. While I was at the retreat on Saturday, I started to feel lame because I only committed for one day; yet, I once served a full TEC retreat with a woman who was in the early days of her pregnancy and a woman who had a small baby (her husband and a "nanny" relative came, too). I knew that I shouldn't compare myself to these women, but I slipped into it anyway. The fact of the matter is, myself and these two other women I know are all different, and we each have different gifts. Yes, they could serve a full retreat weekend and make it. Me, after serving for one day, spent two days in recovery-mode, and I could not function super well during that time.
"There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service, but the same Lord." I have heard this Scripture passage so many times in my life, and I've had this message of "different gifts, different service" pounded into my head. I can't count how many times my friends and I have told each other, "Comparison is the thief of joy." Yet, we all do it anyway. We compare. We guilt-trip ourselves unnecessarily. We get jealous of others.
I've found that when I start comparing myself with another, there are two routes I can take. Once, I saw a classmate and thought, Man, she looks so devout and holy and prayerful. I don't have that devotion. I'm not sure I can ever be that way. I'm so jealous of her. And I let this jealousy build and build, and it took a bit of work to eradicate it from my life. On another occasion, I saw a young woman and thought, Wow, she looks so devout and holy and prayerful and joyful. I want that kind of zest for God, and I'll do whatever it takes to grow a deeper relationship with God.
In one instance, I let comparison drive me to jealousy; in another instance, I let a momentary comparison push me to further spiritual growth and a more intimate relationship with God. Reading the Lives of the Saints is a big deal for Catholics. We have books upon books, websites upon websites, piles of stories upon stories that reveal the lives of ordinary men and women who lived for God and then made it to Heaven. I cannot count how many times I have talked with people who get discouraged as they read these tales. This person became so holy, I'm nowhere near that, they say. I can't be that saint. Instead of falling into negative comparisons with these saints, could we instead take a different path? Could we let their examples move us to push ourselves in growing however God desires us to grow?
This weekend, I learned (and keep re-learning) that we all have different gifts and limitations. This doesn't mean that we can slack off and say, "Oh, well I'm different from so-and-so who does lots of good work for God, so I don't have to do much." Nope, we still need to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones and sacrifice; we just need to listen to what God is calling us to do, and see how He wants to help us grow in love and service. We all have gifts and missions from God; if we're too focused on negatively comparing ourselves to another, we aren't going to be able to serve Him in the best possible way. So don't let comparisons weigh you down. Give your entire self to God, and ask Him to help you utilize your specific gifts for His greater glory!