Open thoughts on a personal circumstance.
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:13-18 NIV).
I do not see myself as the type of person who has anything that anyone else might want.
In fact, my experience with the Green Monster has largely been my wanting what a lot of other women my age have: namely, a career, a husband, a home, and a mess of kids to love on. Wouldn’t you know, though, I don’t want just any career, or husband, or home, or mess of kids to love on. No, I have a specific calling and vision on my life from God, so it seems I must wait. This seems more than a little unfair to me, especially in a season where many of my friends are marrying off, and if God were a statistical being, I’m sure He’d have a large percentage representing the time I’ve spent crying about how I want my life to be together now. He’s certainly seen it this year as I’ve watched people headed for the altar and whined (many, many times), “I want that.” Yeah, not pretty.
And because I’m in the habit of thinking my existence is so lacking regarding career and husband options, especially in these last few months, I am shocked when someone wants the life that I have. In fact, even when it’s clear to everyone around me, it’s the last thing that occurs to me. It astounds me: someone who has everything I want wants what I have.
I wonder for several days why I didn’t catch this off the bat, until two things dawn on me:
- I didn’t realize how blessed I am to be able to do what I do
- The Green Monster didn’t exactly appear envious, it paraded itself as wisdom
I have two part-time jobs. You (my followers) have heard this a number of times from me, and how exhausting keeping that pace can be. What I have not stressed enough is the flexibility this allows. Neither of these jobs include responsibilities that extend beyond the time limits of my shifts. (Usually. There was, like, this one time). In other words, my work stays at work, so when I come home, I can focus on other things. Although I live with family and spend time with them, I am mostly free (being unmarried and childless) to focus on things besides family as well. Guess where most of my free focus goes? Writing, of course! And I love to write! Writing energizes me; it is my chief catharsis. The remainder of my focus goes towards building a readership, not just for The Field, but for future work as well: I develop content for this blog, Facebook , Twitter, Pinterest, and now Google+. I’m digging into book themes and characters, utilizing tools that generate interest in my work. Writing and networking with readers (and writers) is my third part-time job. I enjoy what I do, but amidst the longing for the career and the husband and the (eventual) children, I forget how blessed I am to be able to do it. I have something a lot of women with any combination of the things I long for do not typically have: time. And it took the Green Monster coming a-knocking for me to repent of my whiny-ness before God and have a serious attitude adjustment. I can sincerely say that I would not have my life any other way at this moment.
But back to the Green Monster, and the way it presented itself, because it didn’t look like envy until I inspected it more closely. It tried to pass itself off as experience, I think quite successfully, except it wasn’t my experience. That didn’t stop experience from taking on a little pride in the way it did things, perhaps not realizing I have a diverse host of experiences within arm’s length, so I took on a little pride myself and explained that. I tried unsuccessfully to bring it back to joy and satisfaction in what I’d been called to do, but it didn’t take. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to twist my joy and satisfaction in God’s calling on my life into something negative. It took every ounce of will power not to escalate the situation and cry “SPIRITUAL WARFARE! Get thou behind me, Satan!” right then and there, trust me.
It took me a little over a week, though, to understand my ability to do things differently was what made experience reach out the way it did, not what I was actually doing, and that made it not experience at all, but envy. This person could not do what I could do, not having what I have: the time to do it, and really so much more importantly, the call to do it.
Still, it’s more than a little irritating. I would never take the calling to a career, or to be a wife, or a homemaker, or a mom and turn it into something negative simply because I couldn’t have – oh wait.
There’s that woman in her power suit, rushing to get out of the store where I work to get back to her job. She snatches the receipt, and runs out the door, cutting me off mid-sentence. And I think, or perhaps remark to a neighboring cashier, Lady, you need to take a chill pill. If your job makes you that uptight, it can’t possibly be worth it. I know I wouldn’t want it. Except, I do. For some reason, a big part of me wants to be that successful (if not uptight) woman in the power suit.
There’s the woman snapping at her husband (or significant other), and I think, What’s the point of marriage/relationships if this is all there is? I don’t want that. Except, I do. And of course there are those statistically-problematic pastor’s marriages that I’ve told the world I don’t want either. Except, part of me kind of does – I want a husband who takes care of people for a living. The fact is, no one wanting to be a pastor in his right mind, would want me to be the woman at his side, and that kills me a little, but it’s less bruising to my ego to just say I don’t want it.
There’s the tired mom and homemaker, trying to lasso her young brood in the grocery store, rather unhappily and impatiently. If parenting makes her this unhappy, why on earth does she have all of them? And I thank God, because I don’t want to be in her position. Except, of course, I do.
Silly, isn’t it? These things I want? I am willing to tear them down, not because I don’t want them, but because I don’t have them. Envy will make you do and say strange things, things that may seem logical, but they’re driven by that great swindler of joy: comparison.
Silly, isn’t it? As women, we have small windows into one another’s experiences. We see moments of positivity or negativity and we shrewdly base our judgments of that person upon them. We compare our full experience to the glimpse we have at another.
So, I want to offer some true wisdom to those of us who struggle with envy.
Enjoy your own calling. “This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart” (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 NIV). Doing what God has called you to do is a great source of true joy because it will keep your eyes fastened on Him, not on other people and how they are handling their callings.
Let go of your definition of success. “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy” (James 4:12a NIV). You are going to give an account to God, so you only need to be who He has called you to be. His judgment is the only one that holds any gravity: let go of your own, let go of others’, and let go of your own for others.
Think a little less of yourself. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit” (Philippians 2:3a NIV). Don’t ever put yourself in a position where you think you know what’s best for everyone. Equally dangerous can be the position where you justify everything you do to another person.
Are you doing what God has called you to do? Great! Do it. And assume (unless it’s a situation that is CLEARLY against God’s will as stated in the Bible) that’s what other people are doing as well.