That time when I was envious… Or rather, that time when I wasn’t

This morning I grabbed my cup of coffee, settled in on the couch and did what I usually do on the weekends.  I turned on HGTV.  I’m not sure what it is about that channel, but it’s become a weekend staple for me.  The shows I love most are the ones where they turn run-down homes and yards into something that came right out of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine.

I turned the TV on right in the middle of a show where a Texas couple helps people buy fixer uppers and turns them into beautiful, stunning homes.  It wasn’t long before I realized that they were fixing up this home for a couple who sold their dream home, moved to Uganda to help provide for the poor there and were now returning home to Texas to settle in to retirement.  They left their riches invested in the people of Uganda.  They had little to come home to.

Tears welled up in my eyes, and I couldn’t understand why.  I just felt like this home was so meaningful.  People came together, pooled resources and rewarded this humble couple with a place to call home.  I knew nothing about their story, but I wanted to be them.  Or, be the couple on TV who gets to make it happen for them.

I’ve been learning to listen to my tears more these days.  I have listened enough lately to know that my tears often come from a place of wishing, hoping, yearning, wanting, envy.

And then I decided that my emotional reaction had something to do with the “super moon” and dismissed it.

A while later, I sat down to go to church online (isn’t the whole internet thing just so cool?) wondering what God might want to say to me this morning.  Clearly my emotions were in a place to hear him today.  The text was 1 Samuel 8 where Israel told Samuel they wanted a king.  It went like this:

Fed up, all the elders of Israel got together and confronted Samuel at Ramah. They presented their case: “Look, you’re an old man, and your sons aren’t following in your footsteps. Here’s what we want you to do: Appoint a king to rule us, just like everybody else.” (‭1 Samuel‬ ‭8‬:‭4-5‬ MSG)

Just like everybody else has.

I knew the word that would come from the pastor’s mouth next.

Envy.

And there you have my emotions, all tangled up in the bitter taste of wishing, hoping, yearning and wanting.  Envy.  The word hung there and I knew in that moment that I have spent the last several months in that place.  The ugly, dark, ungrateful, discontent house of envy.  Envy, with its empty halls of promise, always leaves us wondering what is on the other side of the next door.  We open it only to find another empty room.  Endless doors and empty rooms.

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It’s easy to live in the house of envy in this world of instant information and social media.  Every day we are bombarded with photos and status updates showing how much better others are than we are.

“Her kids are doing well in college and mine are…”

Look at that amazing vacation they took!  I wish I could…”

Wow, she really works out a lot and looks so thin, toned and fit.  If only I was…”

“Look at their beautiful new home!  I wish we had…”

I could go on, but I think you know what I mean.  Feasting on a steady diet of news from around the internet creates a hunger for something we didn’t even know we wanted.  Even Facebook knows how to flaunt what we didn’t know we needed right in our faces.  Isn’t it creepy how they know what you’ve looked at online and make suggestions for your purchases through their ads? I digress!

These words came to my mind today:

Envy is the enemy of contentment.

When you think about it, envy is what got Adam and Eve in trouble in the garden.  The enemy said to them, “Hey, God doesn’t want you be just like him.  He’s holding out on you!  Just eat the fruit, everything will be so much better than it is now.”  And since that day, when Adam and Eve took that first bite of disobedience, mankind has been waging a war with envy, and envy keeps on winning.

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Now before we get all finger pointy at Eve, I have to tell you that I would probably have done the same thing.  Isn’t that what I do every day?  I imagine my life would be better if I had a better job, a house that I owned, a luxury car, children that think, talk and act like me, more time, a big vacation. The list. goes. on. Endless wishing, hoping, yearning, wanting.

Envy.

How on earth am I going to stop being so envious?  What needs to happen so that I live in joy and contentment, with gratitude instead of envy?  Because, I’ll say it again,

Envy is the enemy of contentment.

I think I need to do what Anne Voskamp wrote about in her book, “One Thousand Gifts.”  I need a gratitude book and I need to memorialize my gratefulness every single day.  Not just once a week, not just once in awhile.  Every. Single. Day.  Because when I think about it, I have so much. I have more than I need and to be discontent is to be like the Israelites who asked for a king.  They had enough, but they wanted to be like everybody else.  What they soon would learn, is that what everybody else had was a king who took and took and took.  They would find out that their sons and daughters would be enslaved to a king.  They would experience corruption unlike anything they had experienced before.  It was a case of God giving them what they wanted even though what they wanted was not good for them.

The Psalmist wrote, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” Psalm 84:11

No good thing does he withhold… If I am truly seeking God’s ways and not my ways; asking for what I want but yielding to his will; accepting that sometimes the answer will be “no” or “not now;” I can live in the security and contentment that what he has given is enough.  I can replace my envy with gratitude and know that what is good, he will not withhold.

Do you find yourself envying others, thinking that if you only had _______ life would be better?  How will you practice gratitude that leads to contentment?  I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

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2 Comments on “That time when I was envious… Or rather, that time when I wasn’t

  1. I absolutely could relate. Thank you for reminding us of this life lesson. Love your work!

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