I’ve spent a decent portion of my life looking up to people. I think we all have. In school, we were asked who our heroes were. We were assigned projects that detailed the lives and accomplishments of our idols. We spent hours studying the success of others. From an early age, we’ve been trained to view others’ achievements in order to learn how to achieve our own. This has benefited us, teaching us determination and perseverance. It has honed our skills and given us the courage, confidence, and motivation to achieve our dreams. Emulation has resulted in garnering us the essential tools we’ve needed in order to reach the peaks of our own success. We all know the popular phrase, “If I can do it, so can you!”
Unfortunately, the idolization of others has also created an unforeseen and unspoken backfire. When we spend our lives looking up to the achievements, skills, and accolades of others, we fall prey to the natural tendency of comparison. The aforementioned phrase mutates into, “If they can do it, I should be able to as well!” That’s simply not the truth. No amount of emulation, idolization, or even practice can equip us with the tools necessary for what someone else is called to do. We may be able to similarly accomplish what our heroes have, but our successes will never match. The outcome will never be the same because the journey isn’t either. We will always sink into the quicksand of inability and incompetency when we compare, because we forget the difference between skill and calling. Skill reflects who we are, while calling reflects who God is.
Skill can be learned, practiced, improved, and even perfected. Sure, some people are more naturally capable of skill in specific areas, but overall, skill is something that can be obtained with practice. Writing comes naturally to me, but if you practice enough, you could become a decent writer yourself. And likewise, though I am not naturally inclined towards science and math, with enough learning and studying, I could probably achieve a decent score on an exam.
Calling, however, is much different. Calling is a God-given destiny placed over our lives. Calling happens when the composition of our soul — our talents and aptitudes, our failures and shortfalls — is used and interwoven into a greater commission commanded by God. When the supernatural and natural combine, that is calling. Calling isn’t always a desire or a dream. In fact, we are often called in the midst of our greatest chaos, when our reliance on Jesus is at an all time high. No two callings are the same, because no two persons are. We were each created with such intricate distinction that comparison is not only unnecessary, but entirely irrelevant.
How often have you felt incapable or unworthy? Maybe you’ve been aiming for a goal that you can’t quite seem to reach. Have you been wishing your path was like that of someone else’s? That their fame, fortune, and success was your own? Have you, like me, compared your calling to another’s? You’re not alone. I’ve found myself falling prey to the slithering sleuth of comparison, too. I know without a shadow of a doubt that God has called me to walk through the valleys of the shadow of death (figuratively and literally) in order to walk beside those who face similar sufferings. God has given me a voice to speak into the darkness and to call out those trapped in fear, doubt, and shame. Yet even though I know my calling, I compare what God has given me to what He has given others. Because there’s still a part of me that feels entirely unworthy and incapable of the call He has for me.
Confusion, comparison, and doubt are exactly what the enemy wants. He seeks to steal, kill, and destroy us, our dreams, and our callings. If he can cause us enough doubt to lead us into comparison and create in us a fear of unworthiness and inability, he wins. Satan tells us that we are all the same, capable of attaining the skill of others while camouflaging his intentions as good. There’s a fine line between looking up to others in order to gain inspiration and motivation, and idolizing others in a way that causes us to compare our own calling to theirs.
Comparison also leads to competition. We become tricked into thinking that our lives are a race to the top, and whoever gets there the quickest wins. We look to the left and to the right of us to calculate how much more effort we need in order to get ahead of others. We look ahead and think if only we can try a little harder and push through a little more, we can reach our dreams first and best. But it’s a lie. We disservice ourselves by comparing and competing. And if only we can imagine what God thinks of this… I’m sure He’s saddened at our simple minds and deceived hearts. I’m sure He’s saying, “Oh, if only you could take your eyes off of them so that you could finally see ME! I have so much in store for you, I have called you for something greater than this!”
Until we stop looking at the achievements of others and begin to focus on who God has created us to be individually, we will continue to compare and lose sight of our calling. Because we are human and lack eternal and supernatural vision, we believe that God determines the greatness of our calling based on our own measure of self worth. The funny thing is, God doesn’t call us to things we excel in. He takes our weakness and makes it a strength, our brokenness into wholeness, and our fear into courage. He calls us to rise above our flesh and step into the armor that we are given as children of the One Most High. We are called not for ourselves, but for the glory of Jesus to be shown throughout the world.
Many of you aren’t sure what it is that God is calling you to do. I wish I could give you an instruction pamphlet on how to find out, but the truth is simpler than written instruction. When we press into Jesus with our soul, mind, and heart, letting no fear of failure, no thought of comparison, and only eyes on Him, He will reveal it to you. Your calling is distinct. It will not look like mine. It won’t look like those you idolize. It won’t look, feel, or seem like anyone else’s because it’s been created specifically, intricately, and purposefully for you alone.
Maybe you’ve been burdened and stirred in your spirit but aren’t sure what that means. Pray, press in, and seek. When we ask, we know that God answers. He wants us to know our calling because it is with an excited anticipation that He awaits our obedience to what He has destined for us.
Today, if you are comparing what God wants you to do, the gifts He has specifically given to you, or the direction of your life to those who surround you, I encourage you to remember the distinguishability between calling and skill. If you are comparing success, you have lost sight of what calling truly is. Calling cannot be compared to success because it has no measurement, it simply is. Calling is a gift given by God, a destiny placed over your life. Your calling cannot compete because it stands alone. Remember, skill reflects who we are, calling reflects who God is.
When we stop focusing on comparisons, we find that God’s calling is greater than anything we could have imagined for our lives. Believe in and pursue the individual distinction that God has called you to.
1 Peter 2:9-10 (MSG)
“But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.”