When I disagree with someone theologically, philosophically, or epistemologically, I often have within me the urge to prove that my life is going much better than the life of the person I am at odds with-- That I am truly living life to the fullest and the other is merely existing through their incorrect assessments of reality. It's a sickness, I tell you.
In college, five friends and I went on a Spring Break trip to the Grand Canyon. It was beautifully planned and executed in such a way that only cost each of us $100. (Of course gasoline in '97 hovered around a buck a gallon.) We left early one morning, stopped to spend a night in Santa Fe, stayed a day and two nights in Sedona, three days two nights on the rim of the Canyon, then back , with another night in Santa Fe on the way home. Perfect weather. Perfect places. The only thing about the whole trip that was less than stellar was my attitude.
A member of our group took charge early on. I've never been really sure what a "Type A" personality is, but I know without a doubt this person has it. She planned the trip, made sure we were always on schedule, and on our hikes would want to go a little bit further, regardless of how far away we were from camp in relation to how long the sun would be hanging in the sky. She even set aside daily time for us to sit around and talk about how awesome God is, what he is teaching us, and ponder how anyone could not believe in God after seeing the wonders of nature.
As for me, I was content walking a little, stopping a lot, and just hanging out and resting, without the need for endless chatter. Me and our group leader began the trip on a collision course toward conflict. The other four were stuck between us, taking on the responsibility of keeping us away from each other as much as possible.
During this trip I was just a few months removed from my first overseas experience. Armed with an arrogant belief that my recent travels and exposure to different ideas and cultures made me better equipped to appreciate my surroundings, I made sure everyone knew that my outlook on life was the only true way to experience the fullness Jesus promised. None of you would have liked me on this trip. It's a miracle any of my companions are still my friends.
On our return visit to Santa Fe, we were walking downtown and happened upon a Glee Club from Massachusetts giving an impromptu concert in the town center. It was a wonderful time, one of the few that I believe we all truly enjoyed. At the end of it, as we were walking out to our car, I blurted out that it was=, without a doubt, the best part of the whole trip. But I really didn't believe that. I simply felt that I enjoyed it more than anyone else, so I seized on the opportunity to try and prove that I knew how to live better than the others.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Why is it that someone who is not competitive in the conventional sense of the word has this great need to prove that his beliefs lead to a much better life than someone who believes differently? Why can't I just be content that the way I operate the business of my life is suitable for me, but maybe not someone else. I think perhaps it all comes down to fear-- a fear that if someone else is happier than us, then the way we have chosen is possibly lacking in substance.
God, save me, save us all, from the rat race of spiritual competition. Allow us to be content in you. As the candles of Advent begin to shine brighter, pointing us to your coming, please shine your light on the darkest parts of our souls, eliminating our desire to win and producing within us a desire to live fully in the grace you have given, through your son born that silent night.