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Recently whilst waiting for an appointment I was sitting quietly waiting to be called in, when I became aware of a conversation between 2 people the other side of a doorway.
“Oh Hi, I haven’t seen you for ages, how are you?”
“Bit tired, my neighbour had a fall yesterday and broke her wrist, so I’ve been helping her out a bit.”
“Do know, one of my neighbours had a fall, she broke her arm!”
“Well, when my sister had a fall she managed to break her arm in two places and dislocate her shoulder. Terrible it was!”
That’s a bit like my mum when she had a fall, she broke not only her arm, but her hip as well!”
Fortunately at that point my name was called and I moved away from hearing range of the conversation. Probably a good thing, because I was beginning to imagine who was going to get to a tale of the fatal fall first! But it made me think about how competitive we all can be sometimes.
We do of course live in a world of competition, and on occasions it can be a good thing for us to be challenged and have to perform at our best. This may be at work looking for a promotion, it may be to earn a bonus, it may be in sport to give our team the edge. Whatever it is, it is usually a good thing to push ourselves to give our best and use our skills and talents to achieve it. However for some people, their competitive nature gets the better of them and they will stop at nothing to be the best.
At other times it may not be appropriate to be competitive with others. It struck me that the conversation about the falls might have been one of those times, whoever could give the ‘worst’ outcome would be the winner. Hopefully all those unfortunate fallers had recovered fully from their various injuries!
It also reminded me of a poster I saw last year in one of the primary schools that we occasionally visit as part of the outreach and transition work we do from our secondary school. It was inviting entries for a prayer competition. I’m sure the main focus of the competition was more about English composition than the content of the prayer itself, or would
“We pray for my Grandpa who isn’t very well” be better than, “We pray that my dad will get a new job soon.”?
Is “Thank you God for creating our world.” more deserving than, Dear God, thank you for giving us apples to eat.”?
Or, “I pray that I will get a bike for my birthday.” more of a prayer than, “Please let me pass my exams.”?
All of those examples are individual and personal, they would all be of importance to the person speaking or writing them, and each comes from within. And, because we have such a competitive nature, we feel inclined to give them some judgement of importance or value. However, the thing about prayer is that it is part of that unique, individual relationship between God the Father and each of us. Even when we are gathered in community for prayer, it is a personal and individual time with the Lord. A time that we choose to share with others in our community, but no-one else there has exactly the same relationship with God.
Jesus gives us an indication of this when he tells the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax collector praying in the Temple. (Luke 18:9-14). It isn’t about show, it isn’t about how much better I am, but rather the ‘ME’ that I bring before God.
The only competition we should have in our relationship with God the Father is that which we have with ourselves in trying to live as one of His children – Loving God and Loving our neighbour.
Not do I do this better than others, but do I do it to the best of my ability?
Deacon Ian Black