Wrestling with Envy
Last week Pastor David gave us a truly beautiful gift when he posted his “Being Vulnerable” video. It was moving to hear his testimony of how he has struggled like many of us with the pressures and uncertainty during these COVID times. I, like many of you, appreciate his honesty about the grief and lament he is working through, and how important vulnerability is during these difficult days. However, there was one thing for me personally that came as a result of Pastor David’s video: envy.
As I sat there watching David pour out his heart to the internet, I became envious of him. I was not envious of his courage and integrity, or his ability to call us to vulnerability. I was envious of his numbers. The amount of shares, likes, comments, views his video received on social media was impressive. It was the first video for Nall Ave CotN to get over 1000 views. It was all over Facebook at a certain point. It resonated with many people, people a part of our congregation and beyond. And I envied him for it.
Have you ever felt that kind of envy? Not just the kind where someone has a material possession that you want, but where someone has a status, position, or reputation that you yourself desire. He or she has a gathering of people praising him or her, sharing how good or helpful they are, how loved they are. And you feel as though you are standing in the back saying, “Why not me? Why can’t I have that?”
How many of us have been plagued by these jealous thoughts during a pandemic none of us want or know how to deal with? How many of us see what our friends, neighbors, co-workers have and say “Why not me?” What is it that you feel God has withheld from you?
Pastor David asked us to think of vulnerability, and as a result I have noticed these thoughts in my own mind when confronted with other pastors and ministers who receive great praise, have measurable success, or (if I’m being overly transparent) bigger paychecks. I constantly find myself thinking “I work just as hard as they do. I’m a good pastor and do what I’m asked. Why don’t I receive what she or he does? Does God like about them more than me?”
So hear my confession church: I struggle with envy. I am always comparing myself to others and wishing I could be like them. I am quite good at holding onto resentment and bitterness when seeing the success of others I don’t possess. I want what they have; I want what I feel I deserve.
Yet it is in the vulnerable state of recognizing my struggle that God reveals why I struggle so much: I am discontent with what I have and where I am at. I don’t look at what God has given me or remember how much I already have in my life. To be discontent is to forget all that we already have and that it is all a gift from God.
I am discontent when I forget what opportunity I currently have in ministry.
I am discontent when I compare my bank account with others doing similar work.
I am discontent when other churches seem to have better services and online resources than we do.
It is exactly in those moments when I most need to practice the discipline of gratitude. I need to shift my attention from what I don’t have (and being bitter about it) to what I do have (and giving God thanks for it). I may not have what I want with regard to status, position, or reputation. I may not have what my neighbors have during these quarantine times. But I when I can remember what I already have been given, when I can turn resentment into gratitude, I do not need to grasp at what I don’t have. If I truly believe that God has, is, and will give me all that I need then I can honestly lay aside my jealous envy and give thanks instead.
P.S. I am truly proud of David and his work with our congregation. He is deserving of much praise and I am grateful to have him as part of our team at Nall Ave CotN.