I just returned from a weekend at the Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) International Convention. As an exhibitor, I spent the time at a booth selling copies of my book, Mom Seeks God, and passing out information about my speaking topics. Speaking in the general sessions and workshops and signing books all around me were amazing speakers and authors—Jennie Allen, Shauna Niequist, Lisa Chan, Lisa-Jo Baker, just to name a few.
So it was only natural that many times during the conference someone came up to my booth, glanced at me and/or my book and then just walked away, clutching copies of several other author’s works.
Obviously not everyone was going to buy my book, but still, there were a few times I was tempted to run after them and say, “Why not my book? Why not me?”
As a writer and speaker and a mom and just as a person, it is sometimes all too easy to compare myself to others.
She is such a gifted writer.
She is such a natural speaker.
She has such incredible life experience.
She is so organized and together!
A whole weekend of that could have left me hiding under my own table.
So it was so good that one morning when my sister and I were getting ready in our hotel room, I found myself with some extra devotional time and I opened up my Bible to the first chapter of Romans. In verses 11 and 12 I read just the words I had needed to see:
“For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you — or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.”
Mutual encouragement…that phrase seemed to reverberate in my heart.
I wasn’t supposed to be viewing these other amazing women writers and speakers as competition. I was supposed be encouraged and to encourage others if possible.
For the rest of my time there, I tried to remember this, and it worked. I found myself greatly encouraged by the other women who were speaking and signing and attending the conference—by their books, their talks, their friendly smiles at my booth.
This attitude made it a lot easier for me to feel convicted and inspired by Lisa Chan’s exhortation not to use motherhood as an excuse not to put God first in our lives and encouraged by Shauna Niequist’s advice to grow deeply a very few friendships.
I had one conversation with a woman who confessed to me that she was an introvert and had skipped out on the program the night before, and I told her I knew just how she felt and that I too often needed a break from all the information coming at me at gatherings like this one. After our brief conversation, she smiled and told me I had just renewed her!
Another woman spent a half hour at my booth asking me questions about writing and getting published. It felt great to be able to encourage these two women, even in small ways.
And in encouraging others, I help myself to remember: No one else has my story, and no one else can tell it like me.
This is a good thing for us all to be reminded of. Maybe some of you who are bloggers too can relate to the way I often feel when I sit down to write a post or an article or a chapter. “I don’t have anything new to say, and anything I can possibly think of has already been said better than I ever could.”
Yet I don’t believe this is how God sees things. God made all of us different and unique and with our own story and perspective to share. We’re not to compete; we’re to work together. Sometimes it takes lots of different perspectives to illuminate the whole picture.
I love the way Christian literary agent Rachelle Gardner described her view at a retreat a few years ago. She told us she no longer uses the category “Competitive and Related” in her clients’ book proposals, but instead describes similar books as complementary, for example, “Readers Who Like These Books Will Also Like…”
It’s a much better way to view it, isn’t it? This amazing book, which I love, is doing well and so perhaps people who like it will like my book too. And this great speaker, who I have learned so much from, talks about topics similar to my own, so maybe those who love her talks might also like mine.
It’s certainly applicable to parenting too. We can choose to be encouraged when things go well in the families of those around us, even when things don’t feel like they’re going well in our own.
And then we too can encourage.
For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you
some spiritual gift to strengthen you —
or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged
by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
How have you experienced mutual encouragement in your faith?
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