The Power of Comparisons
Today is my three-month marker since I drove away from my home in Newberg, Oregon, and started my adventure at Lake Powell Resorts. For all my previous years of being with ACMNP, this is the longest season I have ever worked; if this had been a regular season, I would be preparing for my return trip home as my work season concludes, but now, I haven’t even passed my half-way mark yet!
In a regular season, the end of the season often is met with impatience. The glamour of a new national park, a new job opportunity, and new friends have diminished into a summer drama of who’s dating whom, who is no longer talking with each other, and who’s going to quit early because they’re worn out from the summer’s work. In a scenario of short-term relationships and living situations, there is a greater contrast between the good and the bad, as there isn’t time for life to mellow out. In addition, the anticipation of going home, returning to family, friends, and favorite places adds to the feeling of anxiousness one experiences. Having worked in national parks with ACMNP for six summers now, I have become familiar with these summer dramas, but reaching my three-month marker so early in the season is unfamiliar. I still have over three more months ahead.
Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park.
As the summer’s busyness increases, I have noticed this particular year the danger in comparisons. When my day is filled with frustration with hotel guests, coworkers, or my job, or I want to complain about my wages, the dorms, or my job situation, I tend to start making comparisons—trying to gauge how this year in the park compares to former years. This year, I had to take a pay cut and demotion in order to work with ACMNP here at Lake Powell. As my schooling is finishing up and I have to consider my future career, this summer has felt like a step backward. Comparison begins to creep out of the shadows and paint the beautiful red landscape here with strokes of bleakness.
Lake Powell does not have the majestic splendor of Yellowstone’s Old Faithful. It doesn’t have the deep-cut walls of Zion Canyon. It doesn’t have the coolness of Olympic’s rain forest. In fact, the entire area is fairly flat, with the majority of Glen Canyon’s beautiful landscape sitting on the horizon—unreachable for daily exploration. The lake is spectacular and blue, but most of the day I can only see it from the window of my workplace. Even seeing the neighboring parks of Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, or Mesa Verde requires a minimum of five hours of driving. Lake Powell sits at the junction of several major highways that lead to another stretch of beautiful land, but the junction itself is plain by comparison to the surrounding areas.
So as I have been sitting over this lake, my prayers have been filled with humility and gratitude. Comparison feeds my sense of what I think I deserve, while gratitude is God’s grace to recognize His presence and purpose in placing me here for the summer. If I chase after what He has not given me this summer, I will miss the blessing and lessons He has for me here; if I wallow in pity, reminiscing in former parks or jobs I used to hold, then my heart will not be open to receive His presence found here in this park and job. Furthermore, in trying to live in comparison with the past, I rob those I am trying to minister to because I am more concerned with how I think God should bless me instead of recognizing how I have been sent by Him to bless others.
Ministering to others with God’s love is the goal of my summer. The park location and the job are simply the tools He is using to allow my path to intersect with others. There are special blessings and ministry opportunities here that cannot be replicated anywhere else. When the temptation of comparison arises, I can defeat it with gratitude found in the faces of those God has allowed me to encounter and bless here and now, and hold the memories of the past as gifts of God.