17 April 2013

hockey sticks and that comparison habit

A number of people have written recently about the realities of struggles, mess and doubts of daily walking with Jesus. I'm adding mine here because I am weary from carrying it around for so long and it is a major element of the clutter part of the blog title. It often happens without warning and in unexpected places...


We went to a church meeting last week. It was a good meeting. I had led worship and the songs seemed to fit well with what was being said and with what was prayed. Good things were shared. Yet I still came home feeling rattled.


Actually that thing when people share prayer answers or pray earnestly for someone else was happening, so good yes? Except when there is a tiny spark of comparison in there and I start to shrink and shrivel because:

  • I have similar needs that are not being answered in the same way
  • don’t pray quite so earnestly for something, so maybe that’s why I'm not getting answers for that thing
  • I have reluctance to share a particular struggle with the rest of the church and feel guilty for it 

So by the time we got home my inner critic had already made a précis of these thoughts and was furiously scribbling a checklist on a clipboard:

  • Rubbish at prayer - check
  • Not praying enough – check
  • Don't get the answers that others get – check
  • Don't share enough with others – check

I also had to phone someone when I got home (the sort of person it is not necessarily good to talk to when I’m already feeling a tad vulnerable.)  So now these thoughts had been through several cycles and negativism had been reduced to the lowest common denominator:




Eventually I did sit down and scrawl my heart out to my heavenly Father. All the negative thoughts accumulated in that short space of time pencilled onto paper. Warts and all. As I wrote gradually the weight of invalidation lifted and a healthier perspective came back into focus.

Some time ago I either heard a speaker or read a writer who referred to a hockey stick to illustrate how the Psalmist pours out His heart to God, plunging low with his feelings and doubts. Having spent time in God’s presence the Psalmists feelings are turned around by God at the point of meeting in the crook of the J shape of the hockey stick. Not the world's greatest illustration but it has stuck with me (maybe because a major part of my school sporting legacy was to be dumped from the school hockey team..)
photo credit: chelmsfordblue


It would be great to avoid the palaver of even getting into this position of inner-self-beating in the first place over small-things-that-become-big-things because it is difficult and more than a little depressing

A lifetime of thought patterns learned in childhood, slowly germinated along the way and deep-rooted

For the times when prayer is not the first port of call in the refuge of the storm and thoughts are given permission to fester because that is easier, especially if a raw nerve has been trodden upon

Consoling the hurt I feel, feeding it and giving it sympathy rather than acknowledging it and handing over the burden to my heavenly Father

For the times in the past where this cycle has been overwhelming  and has multiplied into the beating of a thousand tiny hockey sticks in the mind, developing into full-blown periods of depression

Grief for these times where happiness has been completely crushed and overwhelmed

All consuming seasons where the comparison habit has unwittingly leaked sharp fragments into the tender hearts of my own children

That is great sadness

But never ever venturing down this unhealthy route of absorbing negative comparisons again is highly unlikely. Many lessons have taught me that I know that these warped perspectives are truly and fully met head on in the very act of praying, wrestling or handing over before God, however we do this part. Something then cracks open, allowing the divine exchange of His love to take place in our hearts. I do not know how, but I know that it does, figuratively speaking between the heel and the toe of the hockey stick.  

In willing hearts I believe God is in the business of breaking the cycle of the comparison habit wherever and however it manifests itself. And He in His grace still chooses to use me to do His work while the work is in progress. The very antithesis of what comparison tries to tell us.

Processing thoughts when others lay their weakness cards on the table gives us two reactional choices: 

  • to listen and hear them out, walk away from comparison and enter into the mess, with grace
  • invoke the comparison, inwardly roll our eyes, tut and say to ourselves 'thank goodness I'm not like that', ignoring the fact that THAT with maybe a different face is looking right back at us eyeball to eyeball

The stupid comparison habit is out on the table, or in this case out on the field. I am more than happy to keep knocking seven bells out of it with a hockey stick when it's needed. And on days when I'm not so successful at stopping those comparisons carousing I suspect there will be a team of you who have my back and will be waiting on the benches ready to help me out with your hockey sticks.

It's game.

Is this something you struggle with?

Are you able to nip comparison and negative thoughts in the bud before they start running riot on the field?

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