Sunday, March 30, 2014

This Week's Lessons

I've been secretly frustrated lately.  I've been feeling left out.  Overlooked.  Forgotten.  It's been happening with friends, family, and even at church.  I recently said to my husband, "We could move to a different country and I don't think it would affect anyone."

What may have started with other people's words and actions turned into a problem in my heart.

This past week was my kids' Spring Break.  Jared was gone on a business trip for the first half of the week, but then he was able to take the rest of the week off of work.  We were able to have some great family time, and we got to see all four of our parents at various times this week.

Last week as I was wrestling with my feelings, I just wanted to talk to my grandma who passed away a couple years ago.  No one could substitute, and I don't have access to her at the moment.

When we visited Jared's dad over Spring Break, I had the chance to sit and talk with Jared's grandma.  I got some of that matriarchal wisdom I was craving.  She reminded me of what I do have.  I know that I have literally the world's most amazing husband, and I'm so incredibly grateful for our three kids.  But I have a tendency to think, "Ok, my marriage is great and my kids are doing well, so I'll focus on what needs my attention or needs fixing."  Jared's grandma simultaneously reassured me that my tendency is natural and understandable, and she also helped me to see why I needed to shift my focus.  Only a grandma can correct you in such a gentle way. :)

Later that night Jared's dad showed me the book his church small group is studying, What On Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren.  As I flipped through the book, God directed my attention to a section near the end of the book.  He put a label on the part I've played in my recent struggles:  Envy.

Yuck!  I don't want to have envy in my heart!  I usually have no trouble rejoicing with people around me, so I didn't see this coming.  But of course, God was right.  He helped me to see that I was envious of time other friends spend together while I crave more connection with women.  I was envious of other people being recognized for what they do at church while I was repeatedly passed over for jobs I volunteered to do.  I was envious of other people's close-knit families (or at least how I perceive them to be) while I have been longing for deeper relationships with family members.

Rick Warren had several helpful things to say about envy:
  • It's foolish to compare myself to others because I'm incomparable!  So is everyone else.  God made each of us to be unique.
  • Comparing always leads to one of two negative reactions:  pride or envy.  You can always find someone you think you're better than, and you will be prideful. On the other hand, you will always find people that you think are doing better than you, and you will become envious and discouraged.
  • One reason we sometimes find it hard to "rejoice with those who rejoice" is because we fear that there is only a limited supply of God's goodness and grace, so if others get a bigger slice of cake, then I may not get as much.  But God's grace is boundless.  Ephesians 3:8 speaks of "the unending, boundless, fathomless, incalculable, and exhaustless riches of Christ." 
  • When you find yourself beginning to envy someone else, instead of wishing you had their job or talent or boyfriend or children or whatever, remind yourself that "God has given me some unique gifts they don't have, and besides that, I don't know the downside of being them."
  • The point above is just like what Lysa TerKeurst taught me to remind myself when I feel jealous:  "I'm not equipped to handle her good, and I'm not equipped to handle her bad."
  • One of the signs that envy has entered my heart is when I start feeling, "It's not fair!  It's not fair that I don't have what they have!"  Anytime we accuse God of unfairness, we are actually doubting his goodness.  Envy is the symptom, but doubting God is the disease.
  • Anytime you envy others, you are doubting that God knows what's best for you.  You question his love, his justice, and even his wisdom.  
Warren goes on to say that anytime you start to rant about God's unfairness to you, remind yourself of these facts:
  1. Everything I have is an undeserved gift from God.  I wouldn't even exist if it weren't for God's grace.  The next breath of air I take is a gift from God.
  2. I don't know what God knows and I can't see what God sees, so I should trust him.
  3. Life on earth is unfair because of sin, not because of God.  Our rebellion against God has broken everything on the planet.  This isn't heaven, where everything works perfectly.  Nothing works perfectly here.
  4. God sent Jesus to save us from the judgment day when he will balance the books, right all wrongs, and administer justice.
  5. It was not fair for Jesus to die in my place for my sins.  But he did.
Several of those points were reiterated for me this morning through my pastor's sermon.  He spoke about a completely different topic, but God wove some of the same Bible verses into the sermon that He used to speak to me last week.

One of the many books I'm reading right now (I currently have what I call "book ADD") is A Confident Heart by Renee Swope.  I read a little this afternoon, and of course God used that time to speak to me as well.

Here are a few highlights from my reading today:
  • How do we know if we are hearing the voice of condemnation that comes from the accuser, or the voice of conviction that comes from God?  Condemnation sweeps across our thoughts with generalized statements such as, You're such a failure, You're so hypocritical, or You can never be counted on.  The Holy Spirit's conviction will be specific.  (My thoughts have been more along the lines of the generalized negative condemning statements.  God showed me my specific sin of envy.)
  • We have to accept that we are going to disappoint people, especially if we are seeking to please God.
  • Every time you fail to be the woman God calls you to be, or the woman you expect yourself to be, let God remind you of the progress you've made.  Even though you may not be quite who you want to be, you are not who you used to be!
  • Comparison is one of woman's worst enemies.
  • We compare how we feel inadequate on the inside with someone who looks like they have it all together on the outside.
  • God never intended for us to compete with each other.  We are different parts of one body.
  • I have been guilty of thinking God wasn't fair or didn't love me as much because He didn't give me the talents I admired in others.
This is not the first time God has told me to stop comparing myself to other people.  It's one of those repeated lessons that I honestly wonder if I'll ever learn.  Right now I have a lot of questions about what God has next for me, how God wants to use me, what I have to offer, where my unique spot is, etc.  These questions are designed to lead me back to God, and I get myself into trouble when I try to answer them by my own reason and logic.  Or when I get so stuck searching for answers rather than simply trusting God to lead me in His timing.

One other thing God made me realize after I wrote all this is that I tend to envy certain parts of each person around me, as if I'm shopping ala cart from each life around me so I can build what I perceive to be the perfect combination for my life.  How unlike me to want to make something perfect. ;)  However, each person's circumstances are a package deal.  I can't take one good thing from each example I see and ignore the bad that comes along with what they've been given.  No matter how much I want to.

I know this post is long and probably not nearly as meaningful for any of you as it was for me.  I wasn't going to write it but decided to go ahead for my own sake.  I needed a place to process what I'm learning.

I'll have a more light-hearted post for you as soon as I get a chance to edit some pictures of a fun activity I did with the kids last week.


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