Margaret Bayne hosted the best tea parties. She and her husband, Alf, founded Camp Homewood where we ministered on staff for 11 years. Every summer during family camp, she used to invite first-time family camp attendees to her garden. There, tucked under a lush green canopy, she set a small round table with delicate china cups of every color and description.
Purple violets and green leaves adorned one cup. Pink wild roses and slender grasses decorated another. Gold filigree embellished a third. Yellow mums, lily-of-the-valley sprigs, an oriental garden scene—these designs and more brought pleasure to those who sipped the cups’ steamy contents.
Each cup bore a different pattern. And the collection was enjoyed by Margaret’s guests who were equally unique. One woman introduced herself as a single mom with three children. “I’ve been on my own for five years,” she said. “I’ll tell you one thing for sure—single parenting is not for the faint-hearted.”
“I’ve been trying to start my own interior design business,” said another. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. The time seems right.”
“My family recently returned from Taiwan,” a third woman said, “but we won’t stay in North America for long. Our work is calling us back.”
“We’ve adopted two children this year,” said a fourth. “Let’s see—their arrival means we have a dozen kids at home!”
Sometimes the conversation deepened, and the women shared their frustrations, their hopes, and their dreams. Occasionally they talked about their spiritual journey—where they came from, where they were heading, and the bumps and detours encountered along the way. Like the teacups from which they sipped, their stories were different from the others, and for good reason—each guest came from a unique background and possessed her own blend of personality and abilities.
As women, we often compare ourselves to others. We admire our neighbor’s intelligence. I wish I could think quickly the way she does. We envy another’s musical inclinations. It’s not fair—she can play four musical instruments and sing. I can’t even hum a simple tune. We covet someone’s physical appearance. Silky skin, flawless figure—just like Barbie. And then there’s me. We watch another woman teach a Bible study—the same study we’d hoped to teach. Or we wish our life’s journey was a little more exciting—like that new woman in town whose manner and clothes and car ooze glamor. Sometimes we adopt the attitude that says, “If only I could be just like So-and-so.”
We forget that God’s hand has shaped, and is shaping us, into who He wants us to be for a reason. He has ordained a purpose for our lives, and that purpose carries eternal importance.
Would God achieve the same results if we were all identical? I doubt it. Imagine, for a moment, a church choir filled with gifted sopranos but no altos. Kiss harmony goodbye. Or a committee in which everyone wants to demonstrate their leadership skills. Oh-oh.
Rather than wishing we were just like someone else, we can give thanks for our individuality. Rather than being jealous or envious, we can thank God for the design He’s stamped within others’ lives, encourage them to use and develop their gifts, and cheer them on when they succeed.
When we fall into the comparison trap, we can remember that the beauty of Margaret’s table setting lies in the teacups’ variety. She could have arranged her table using identical cups and saucers and it would still look attractive—in a uniform way. But the varied china cup collection added character. And judging by the party-goers’ oohs and aahs, the effect blessed everyone.
Adapted from 10-Minute Time Outs for Busy Women. Harvest House, 2006