By Terry Scalzitti

Growing up, I can remember my mom saying, “Be sure to put on your Sunday Best!” For most kids, that meant you ought to be clean, tidy, and looking perfect when you go to church. But at the core of this well-meaning admonishment is a comparison game a lot of us never outgrow.

The trap we fall into is comparing our worst to everyone else’s “Sunday Best.”  We all do it. Walking down the hallway at church, smiling and waving hi to a friend who seems to have it all together. . .we begin thinking to ourselves, “Why can’t I be more like her?” or “Why can’t my child act like theirs?”  We quickly recall our worst moments and imagine others’ best moments in comparison. How can we avoid this dangerous trap? One way is to be sure that our faith is an exercise and not a “standard.”

When we treat our faith like a standard, we compare our motives, decisions, and actions to a standard we can’t meet. We’ve been told that we need to be “Christ-like.” The problem is when we fall short of Christ’s standard (which we always will).  On the other hand, if as parents we treat our faith as an exercise that we put into practice every day, we will understand that there are growing pains that will happen through successes and failures. That’s the difference between a standard and an exercise.

A runner who trains for a marathon never starts training by running 26.2 miles on their first day out. They’ll start with a few miles and build each day. In other words, they fall short every day during training. But instead of feeling like a failure during their exercise, the runner gains confidence by practicing. Imagine if every time we failed as a parent, we understood that it’s a chance to exercise our faith believing that Christ “in us” can help us overcome every obstacle, difficulty, and challenge.

When we treat our faith like an exercise, we walk away from every moment, win or lose, knowing that we can learn from them and better ourselves in the process. The next time you compare your worst parenting moment to someone’s best, remember that your Sunday Best isn’t going to look like anybody else’s. ..but it’s yours still the same.

Terry Scalzitti is Associate Pastor for Adult and Family Ministries at First Baptist Fort Lauderdale. He and his wife Jennifer have a son, Connor, and spend their free time enjoying the outdoors and watching Terry’s beloved Chicago Cubs.