Christmas Comparison

1:05 PMHeather

Once upon a time, I wrote a little blog post about mums.  Not a British term of endearment for the female caregiver.  Nope.  As in "everything is bigger in Texas" homecoming mums.  Kinda got a lot of attention.  Thousands of page views.  Tons of comments.  (Not to brag, mind you).   Then, there was a post about the darn Elf on the Shelves just a couple weeks ago.  Again, sparked a lot of feedback.  Yesterday, my Facebook status was my typical keeping it real about the social media announcements of the fabtabulous gifts people got.  A trifecta event, I tell ya.  I've hit a nerve. 

Seems that perhaps a few of us struggle with comparison or "one-up-manship."  In other words, there seems to be an underlying trend of wrestling with insecurity rooted in the struggle between the perception of others' successes and our own tendency to use that for our plumb line. 

I present to you exhibit A.  The Griswalds.  The movie Christmas Vacation.  Clark's need to have the best Christmas light display EVER.

Something akin to this.

Social media doesn't help.  At all.  Listen, I can remember back in the day when I would sit over Christmas break and get a phone call or have a get together with my friends.  (Yes, teenagers.  We used to have face-to-face interaction or actual verbal conversations.  Pre-cell phones.  I know--it's archaic).  There was, of course, the usual chatter about what other people got.  I can remember the year my friend Jennifer got a gold colored car with those seat belts that slide along the door and pulled across you automatically.  It was before I got my license.  Yeah.  I was a little green with envy.  But, I loved Jen.  And we were friends.  So I also knew I had a potential ride with a peer.  

It's a natural bent to discuss what other people got and what we received.  We, in our human frailty, struggle with measuring our worth by our possessions or notoriety.  In other words, the perfect storm when it comes to that most wonderful time of the year when consumerism runs amuck.  Oh, yeah, yeah, baby Jesus and peace on earth.  And sales and gifts and impressing others with what you gave or received.  Forget brown paper packages wrapped up with string.  We're talking the biggest baddest gift under the tree with the most amazing wrapping paper.  

Don't tell me you never poked around the tree to see WHOSE name was on the largest gift under there.  Or, rather--so big that it didn't actually fit under the tree.  It was leaning against the wall toward the back of the tree.  And you hoped, as you commando crawled back there, that it was for you.  

I'm not sure that sense of hoping or longing fades as we age.  We live in a consumer culture.  Bigger.  Newest.  Latest.  Best.  We are bombarded a billion times a day--in more ways than ever before, with marketing and advertising designed to convince us of our need for that product.  In other words, designed to make us feel discontent.  As evidenced by my bulging inbox this last month, filled beyond belief with ad emails.  I can't unsubscribe fast enough.  And believe me, I've had plenty of time to devote to that task as I've laid around recovering these last few weeks.

I gotta tell you, bloggy friends, I felt like that little kid looking under the Christmas tree this past Christmas day.  Sizing up my packages with the other ones.  Wishing the biggest one had my name on it.  Or rather, as an adult who loves to give, wishing my name was listed as the giver of that biggest package.  

Nothing but love to those of you who gave the biggest gift.  I don't begrudge you.  But, here's how I felt as I scrolled through Facebook.

Oh.  Another video of an over-the-top reaction from a kid.  Wow.  A trip to Disney.  Isn't that great?  The latest and greatest lap top for your elementary age kid.  Impressive.  Front row seats to THE concert of the year.  iPhones for every one of your kids.  The one last gift, meant to get a reaction, after a pile of gifts have already been opened.

Um.  WHAT does their dad do?  Oh, yeah.  Obviously, not the careers in non-profits that my husband and I have always had.  

All at once, I was reduced to a puddling mound of defeat like I was the seven-year-old kid who got an ugly sweater and socks while my sibling got the gift I had wanted.  And that huge gift wasn't for me at all.

I'm not proud of it.  But, gauging from the comments on my status yesterday--I am in good company.  

Doesn't help that we live a stone's throw from an extremely affluent suburb.  

So, here I am trying to raise my kids to be grounded and rooted in Jesus for their worth.  Cheering on blog posts like this one from Jen Hatmaker.  Yay!  Giving simple gifts, what they need, what they read, what they want, what they can wear.  Go Jen!  I'm feeling it.  That fits my budget.  The true meaning of Christmas!  YES!

I'm all fired up and ready and feeling great.  I've got it going on.

Till Christmas day.  When my zeal fades behind a sense that I'm not measuring up as a mom.  First, my kids don't get all that creative Elf magic.  Compounded by how I've laid around and been a non-participant in life as I recover these last few weeks.  Sleeping until long after my kids have left for school.  Throw in a good measure of other people's excited screaming kids about their parents generosity.... Utter.  Defeat.

But, listen.  I know I'm not alone in this struggle from your comments on Facebook.  And private messages.  About this very topic.  

So, I'm pulling myself together, forcing my brain back to the truth, and building a rally cry for all of us to hear.  

Social media provides a pitfall of comparison.  I love staying connected with old friends and sharing prayer requests and updates and watching darling young brides become amazing first time moms.  There is so much about it that is great.  And good.  And can be edifying.  And there is also so much about it that feeds that underlying struggle of mankind about our worth and value and purpose.

While I was briefly blinded by the glitz and glamour of those over-the-top Christmas gifts given, wishing I'd been able to be so generous, I'm getting over it.  

Because I remember something.  And it's important.  My parents used to address my desire for the biggest gift by reminding me that good things come in small packages.  

And on Wednesday, God reminded me that the BEST gift came in a very small package.  There were no rolling video cameras.  There was no Instagram or Facebook or Twitter to make the big announcement.  Even if there had been social media, the world's reaction to this gift would not have even been measurable.  It probably wouldn't have scored a single "like" on Facebook. It wasn't grand or spectacular or honestly even impressive by the world's standards. 

It was ordinary.  Simple.  Understated.  Unexpected.  Unimpressive. Truly, even unnoticeable.  Not noteworthy at all.  In fact, when the magnificent angel's pronouncement came, it was geared to the lowly shepherds in a field.  Way down on the social ladder.  Not to the royal family in a palace. God didn't scream it from the roof tops for all to hear.

He just changed the course of history with the humblest of grand entrances in a dirty filthy stable.  

I can breathe a deep sigh of relief.  And remember.  I have no need to measure up.  I have no need to feel discontent.  I have no need to feel inferior.  

Because the greatest gift to humanity would never have even registered on modern social media.  That is where I can place my trust and faith and value.  

No mandate to keep up with the Joneses.

Just to bow to a baby in a manger.

Merry Christmas indeed.    

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