Do You Measure Up?

My three-year-old loves visiting the penguins at the zoo. It’s not because of the way they waddle like her younger sister or even the way they swim up to the glass. To be honest, it’s not because of the real penguins at all.

No, her favorite thing to do is stand beside the pictures of penguins that hang on the wall.


Because she still doesn’t quite measure up to the Emperor Penguin.

“Am I as big as him yet?” she asks, trying to see how close the top of her head is to the 45″ arctic beast.

“You’re getting closer,” I assure her. “But you’re not quite there yet.”


In that moment, it occurs to me that we have hearts for comparisons. We want to be bigger, stronger, better. Always. There’s something in us—even at three years of age—that simply has to stack up. Even to a freakin’ penguin.

You’re not quite there yet.

The words roll off my tongue to encourage her—after all, she is much closer than she used to be. But when I think about it, I hate hearing that message myself. I can’t stand it when I’m not quite somewhere. I want to be there, wherever it is.

I take a look at my daughter, whose blond hair reaches the penguin’s chin, and realize she’s got a ridiculous measuring tape. Who uses a penguin to measure their height? It seems warped, twisted somehow, like it’ll never give an accurate read out.

But what do I use as a measuring stick? 

Almost instantly, tons of comparisons come flooding back to me.

  • My favorite movies and TV shows reminded me that I could be much more disciplined with my eating habits. That, surely, if I gave up guilty pleasures (or food all together), I could look like that beautiful actress onscreen.
  • A co-worker’s fat commission check implied I could have matched pennies and dimes if only I had worked harder or been more competent at my job.
  • The upper end of the corporate ladder inspired me to become a slave to work…or risk the shame of not stacking up.
  • Oh, and did Jill just buy a new house right after she got back from Thailand?

Measuring sticks, all of them. All broken, imperfect measuring sticks.

And yet, I let them measure and define my worth.

So what do you use as a measuring stick?

Because when we compare ourselves to anything that is not Christ, we scrap and fight for something that is imperfect. We spin our wheels, straining and struggling, to be something that is not perfect.

In short, we use a pretty ridiculous measuring tape.

And I don’t want to settle, comparing myself to an Emperor Penguin. I’d rather measure myself against the King of Kings.

“Am I as big as Him yet? As kind and loving as He?” I will ask.

Then He’ll look at me and see how much I’ve grown—how much closer I am now than I used to be—and He’ll smile, those eyes of His filled with grace.

“You’re getting closer,” He’ll say. “But you’re not quite there yet.”

And for once, I’ll feel the victory in those words.


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