Are you okay with how God made you? As both a pastor, and a coach (not to mention as an individual), rarely a day goes by when I don’t see someone struggling with feeling inadequate or inferior in light of how they perceive themselves in comparison to others. People young and old see themselves as less, talented, less intelligent, less athletic, less attractive, less well-to-do… There is not a single aspect of our being in which we cannot readily find someone who surpasses us.
And, shocking as this might seem, it is true! Only one athlete on the team can be the fastest or have the hardest shot. Only one person can win first chair in the all-state band. Only one person can have the highest net worth. Only one person is Miss America at a time. Superlatives are like that – they are exceedingly exclusive. Too often, we consider second place as being merely the first loser. Our idolatrous worship of superiority lends itself to a deep and palpable discontent when we find our strengths to be weak in comparison to someone ‘better’ than ourselves. And so, rather than living lives marked by a joyful gratitude, we are constantly chasing after a happiness that will come when we can do or be what we perceive we cannot or are not.
I believe that God addresses this tendency – at least in part, in a generally overlooked passage of a generally overlooked book of the Old Testament. In Job 39:13, the Lord speaks to Job:
The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully,
But they cannot compare with the pinions and feathers of the stork.
What a fascinating verse. If we were to consider what part of the ostrich is its most useless, inadequate, inferior, embarrassing feature – it would surely be its wings. God himself tells us that the ostrich’s wings are nothing compared to those of a stork! Yet, the ostrich flaps those useless, inadequate, inferior, and embarrassing wings with joy! Apparently, she couldn’t care less how her wings compared to those of the stork.
Not so with humans We tend to always compare whatever gifts we have been given to the gifts other people have been given. If God has providentially given us an income, a spouse, a family, a house, a measure of health, a skill… our joy is tempered if not erased entirely when we compare our jobs, spouses, houses, or skills to those of others. And so we begin to covet our neighbors’ goods, health, relationships, money, abilities, etc… and begin to actually despise our own stubby useless wings. We hide them and keep them tucked away. We do not flap them joyfully.
God concludes his ostrich lesson with another picture of joyful abandon:
Yet when she spreads her feathers to run,
She laughs at horse and rider.
How are you running? Many of us run like rats. We are constantly trying to “keep up with the Joneses” and are habitually discontent with what we have, who we are, what we can do… So get out of the rat race, stop comparing your wings and feathers to those of others, and get into the ostrich race! Let’s spread whatever feathers the Lord in his grace and goodness has given us and run with laughter and joy – giving thanks to God who has wonderfully blessed us.