Last week, I shared how a quote from the Chronicles of Narnia completely changed my perspective on the comparison trap. I can’t leave this subject without telling one more story about the difference it has made in my life.
In early 2011, we decided to put our house up for sale (find out why here). We spent weeks polishing and touching up and packing away clutter. Our home of five years looked better than it ever had when it finally was listed on April Fool’s Day.
The house generated a lot of interest, very quickly. And, just as quickly, a few feedback trends emerged.
“We loved the house, but it needs a new roof.”
“It’s a great house, but it needs a new roof.”
“We loved everything about it except for the roof.”
Our neighborhood was built in the 1980s and early 1990s when cedar shake roofs were, apparently, some kind of a status symbol. Since then, of course, they have fallen out of favor with insurance companies, and, as a result, with homeowners. When we listed our house, there were still quite a few homes in our neighborhood with shake roofs, but more and more had composition shingles.
In our defense, we actually had repaired the roof the previous fall. There were no leaks, and a roofer we knew assured us that it still had a few good years left. But it was a buyer’s market back then, and these things didn’t matter.
We had already priced the house to sell, and we didn’t want to take a huge hit for a new roof. So we were a bit discouraged.
Then, just like that, what we thought was the answer literally dropped from the sky.
It came in the form of a massive hail storm that ripped through our area just days after our house went on the market. Talk about an amazing, timely, God-sized answer to prayer.
A new roof, compliments of our insurance company.
Only, it wasn’t meant to be.
After that hailstorm, practically everyone in our neighborhood got a new roof. Except for us, that is. Our house was in the one tiny little pocket of land that did not get the full force of the storm.
We got an offer 17 days after the house went on the market. The buyers would pay full price, but they wanted a new roof. (Of course.)
Our wonderful Realtor worked out a counter-offer that said we would meet them halfway. We’d give them half a roof instead of a full roof. They must have really liked our house, because they took it.
We were thrilled about this, of course, but the fact that the hailstorm had bypassed our house—and our house alone—still stung. A lot.
To add insult to injury, the foreclosed house we decided to buy had a cedar shake roof that was so damaged it had moss growing on it. It had been patched enough to stop the many leaks on the ceiling of the living room, but it truly was a house that no insurance company would cover without a new roof. And the bank that owned it did not have insurance that covered new roofs. Or so they said.
So not only were we stuck paying for half of our old roof, we had to put a completely new roof on our next house.
To make matters even worse, whenever I drove around town, all I could hear was the sound of roofers working. The constant hammering went on for weeks, further driving home the perception that everyone was getting a new roof but us.
Perhaps you know where I’m going with this.
The comparison trap had snagged me again.
This time, however, I knew the way out. The quote from the Chronicles of Narnia that had changed everything when Randy and I were struggling with infertility was just what I needed to remember now.
No, what had happened didn’t seem fair. Yes, maybe if we’d had more time or a different insurance company, things might have turned out differently.
But we didn’t.
And apparently, there were lessons about trust and contentment and comparisons that I still needed to learn.
“Why does everyone else get a new roof, and we have to pay for two?” I’d grumble to myself as I listened to the incessant roofer noise.
That’s their story, not yours, the still, small Voice whispered to my heart.
“Why couldn’t the storm have hit our house as hard as it did theirs?” I’d complain as I drove home and saw all the builder signs in everyone else’s yards.
I tell no one any story but his own, the Voice continued.
When I listened, the jealousy slowed to a trickle, then stopped. And although this situation still makes me groan a bit almost four years later, it really is just another closed chapter in the Flowers family history book.
By now, after nearly two whole blog posts, I’m sure you’ve figured out that the “that’s their story” concept applies to the relatively minor things of life (like my whole roof debacle) as well as the truly hard stuff. But did you know there’s actually a biblical precedent for it?
It’s found in the Gospel of John, during one of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances. After welcoming a repentant Peter back into His inner circle, Jesus preceded to tell the humbled disciple the kind of death he was going to endure.
Intrigued by this glimpse into his future, Peter then wanted to know how the apostle John was going to die. But that bit of information was off limits. “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is it to you?’ ” Jesus said to Peter. “You must follow me” (John 21:22).
Here’s the modern-day application:
When something horrible happens to someone we love, and through our tears we can’t help but ask God for an explanation, the answer is always the same: I am telling you your story, not hers. When immoral people around us prosper and we wonder why, the refrain repeats itself: I tell no one any story but his own. When someone else gets what we want—whether it’s a better job, special recognition, a baby, or a new roof—and we desire to know what’s going on, the message is loud and clear: What is that to you? You must follow me.
I know such answers are not easy to hear. But believe me when I say this. When you make the commitment to stop comparing yourself to other people and actually do this, it can literally change your life.
It did mine.
Parts of this post have been adapted from my book Infertility: Finding God’s Peace in the Journey (Harvest House, 2003), available here.