It is so familiar to me, that sometimes I have to see the speck in someone else’s eye before I realize the timber in my own.
An example came across my feed today from the blog Her.meneutics. In this post, Gloria Furman writes about her birth experience and how the sense of envy robbed her of the joy associated with the birth of her son.
Tears slipped down my cheek as I cuddled our one-day-old third-born child—a handsome baby boy.
I couldn’t believe that I was finally holding my baby, but that’s not why I was crying. I was frustrated that one of my birth preferences had not been followed. Most things on my list of birth preferences were important contributions to the health and well being of my baby and me. But my tears were over a truly inconsequential preference. I had even cheerfully told the supportive medical staff that it wasn’t important and it didn’t matter. Nonetheless, my tears were in fact bitter tears, because my idea of the “perfect birth” was “ruined.”
In a moment when my heart should have swelled with unobstructed joy that our child was born, I sulked. In a moment when my eyes should have looked to heaven in wonder that God would be so gracious to me, I wept angrily. My will had not been done, and that bugged me.
To elevate something—an experience, talent, accomplishment, or opportunity— as a status symbol and pursue that in order to quantify God’s blessing in our life, we have exchanged the inherent good that God has invested within those experiences, talents, accomplishments, and opportunities for idols.
There are many attitudes that we can agree are not suitable for our journey into maturity in Christ, but envy and idolatry are more subtle detractors that often are well-justified to the people around us. Our culture sanctifies many idols for us: motherhood like in the example above, but also career, stability, achievement, nationalism, relationships, and self-fulfillment.
As I thought over the notes I wrote on my card during the response of the message, the envious notes were not isolated vices, but the misapplication of the good things written on the reverse. I envy the status that I see associated with others who share the good things I have.
In these instances, I have missed how the good from God in my life is opportunity for greater faithfulness and responsiveness to the needs of the kingdom around me.
Furman reflects on her experience and writes,
…There is nothing wrong in desiring a good thing like a great birth experience. But when I do not see in God’s good gift of childbirth that God himself is most to be desired, then my yearning for a great experience leans toward idolatry.
I need regular reminders that I have a treasure that is preeminent over my ideas about birth, over the joy of my role as a mom, and over the delightful gifts of my children. My greatest treasure is Jesus Christ. My soul’s boast is in the Lord (Ps. 32:4).
Are there ways that your attention has been diverted from faithfulness to envy? How can we acknowledge this brokenness and move toward renewal in Christ?