"Wow," she said, "I sure wish I could do that."
"Well, first of all, it's ridiculously easy," I told her. "But second, you wouldn't have been able to learn out in the village. You are too busy living in a house without running water and killing tarantulas. Besides, out there you don't even have access to fresh milk or to an oven to make lasagna. You win the prize for living in Africa."
"Not compared to Michelle," she responded, referring to a new friend of ours. "In Congo, she had to cook over charcoal, and she gave birth to her first child in Africa. She wins the prize."
Emily has been my very good friend for 12 years, so this exchange was all light-hearted. But it led to a deeper conversation. Why do we always have this tendency to compare? Why do we always judge our spirituality, or our effectiveness as a mom or wife or housekeeper, by looking around at others? And why is a harder life necessarily equated with a more spiritual life?
In Africa, we expatriate wives compare each other's living conditions. In America, maybe it's ministry commitments or school choices. We make unnecessary martyrs of each other and ourselves, when really we need to just get about the business of obeying God with what He has put in front of us.
To choose to suffer means that there is something wrong; to choose God's will even if it means suffering is a very different thing. No healthy saint ever chooses suffering; he chooses God's will, as Jesus did, whether it means suffering or not. No saint dare interfere with the discipline of suffering in another saint. (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest)
Can we simply come to the conclusion that God has called us to different lives, and that we are all gifted differently? That each of us will have our own good things and hard things in the lives He has called us to? My measure of success, and my measure of spirituality, is between God and me, not me and Every Other Woman.
Even though I'll always admire Emily's tarantula-killing skills.
Emily and her family stayed with us this week, which is always super special because our friendship goes back to our first year in Tanzania. We adopted our kids at almost exactly the same time, and they are all best friends.
They also are starting an extremely cool new agriculture project, which you can check out here.
Grace and Caleb have been friends since we brought them home, so I had to throw in my most favorite picture of them, when they were two years old.
Yesterday: Caleb and Grace, age 9