How do I know this? Oh, well, jealousy and I go way back. We're quite close, actually, in a wary sort of way. Wary on my part, that is. Did I mention the sharp claws?
Yesterday Jealousy showed up unexpectedly and caught me off guard in a big way. I was on my way to Starbucks with a friend, and she happened to mention in the course of normal, casual conversation that a mutual acquaintance (actually a former co-worker of mine) had recently landed a book deal. With a major publisher. The guy is 27 years old, which makes him younger than me. (Ouch! Claws!) He's going to have a book published in two years, and at the moment he is traveling through Europe to research his project, I'm sure at the expense of the major publisher.
So am I happy for him? Yes and no. I'm happy because he was always a good friend to me and an excellent writer, he's worked hard at it, he's passionate about it, and, he must be totally excited. I knew soon after I met him, I think, that I would see his name in print some day. I was jealous then, too! Not in quite so seething a way as I am now, but still a little green around the edges of my aura (if I believed in auras), you know?
I'm not happy because it didn't happen to me. He is going to be a successful writer. And I...well, at least I have my blog, right?
Of course, complicating matters is the fact that I'm a Christian and as such I'm not allowed to be jealous. But I am! So what do I do?
I can always go the typical Christian route and smile and say something along the lines of, "Praise the Lord, it's all in His hands. Thank you, Father, for this valuable lesson in character-building." The problem is, I'm not particularly grateful at the moment. Give me a year or two, maybe things will be different. (Maybe.)
Or I can take the road too often less-traveled (at least by me) and ask myself some hard questions, such as the one I'm sure a few of you are asking right now: "So what's stopping YOU from doing what you're friend is doing? Why don't you stop your moaning and groaning and just WRITE A BOOK?"
I could come up with any number of excuses, believe me. If I'm an expert at anything, it's excuses (and unasked-for opinions, but we won't go there, at least not this time). However, if I'm honest, which I do try to be as a rule, I have to face the fact that it's probably because moaning and groaning is much easier, and much MUCH less costly.
This is not a pleasant epiphany.
It's even less pleasant when I go a step further and realize that I treat my spiritual life the way I treat my writing life: I talk about it, I think about it, I occasionally put a bare minimum of time and effort into it, but for the most part I simply want the benefits of doing lots of work that I seem to have no real intention of doing.
(And this is the raw material God gets to work with. Lucky Him.)
I hope that in a year's time, I can look back at this period in my life, when I am between all sorts of crossroads and decisions that need to be made, and see that I have changed for the better. I hope that I become a lot less lazy, a lot more organized, and a lot more devoted to achieving intimacy with my Father. I hope that I'm a lot less jealous of my writer friend.
I know one thing. I won't be able to take any credit for any changes, because I've realized over the years how incapable I am of making them. God will get the glory. He's the one doing most of the work, after all.
And this is true for all of us who have set our hearts to follow Him. Let's not beat around the bush: we will fail alot. We stumble every day. If we're not jealous, we're selfish. If not selfish, judgmental. If not judgmental...well, you get the point. It's always something. And that can get depressing, if we don't remember that God knows all about it already. "He knows our frame, he remembers that we are dust." (Psalm 103:14). That's what grace is all about. He knows what a mess we're in, and He loves us anyway. He's at work In all of us til the day He brings us home.
And aren't you glad, at the end of the day, that He is?
"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6