Thursday, June 11, 2015

Envy and Gratitude

I had a co-worker at my first job out of college. I’ll call him Eddie, but his real name is Jacob. Jacob, I mean Eddie, had it all. Or at least it seemed like he did. He was handsome and rugged. Strong and smooth. He was on the fast track to success at his job. His girlfriend was beautiful and charming. He had a house, a nice boat, and a nicer truck. He took cool trips to fun places.

I admit — I was a little envious. Or a lot. Most of us were. Jacob was likable and funny. But him having pretty much everything was a bit much. I was never very close to him. Didn’t want to be for reasons that had a lot more to do with me than with him.

I remember getting out of my car eleven years ago. I parked in front of a house. It was huge. And gorgeous. The yard was full of oak trees, plants, and green grass. The house was brick. They had it all. I walked up the flagstone path to the leaded-glass front door. I was invited to be there. Didn’t know why.

The husband / dad answered the door. We walked into the family room. A teenage daughter was holding a crumpled up tissue. But she wasn’t holding back her tears. The usually charming wife / mom seemed distant and cold. The husband / dad was doing his best to hold things together. Behind the brick facade of the historic two-story home was a family in crisis. You would have never known by the impeccable rose garden.

I led a Bible study on Wednesday. The higher-ups at the newspaper weren’t too impressed with my meal-time pastoral duties. About as unimpressed as me being unimpressed with them being unimpressed. Anyway, Jacob walked into the lunch room at the office one day. He sat down and joined us. It was his first time. 

He stayed after and asked if I could pray for him. It turns out the man underneath the well-dressed and well-groomed body was a mess. So much pressure to be perfect. It wears on you. 

Then God taught me a lesson. I wish it wouldn’t have taken me twenty-five years to learn. Would have saved me a lot of grief in my high school and college years. As I prayed for Jacob, something happened. The envy disappeared. Gone. Just as well. I needed it about as bad as I needed a chronic headache. I became more grateful for what I have and who I am. My life changed. It was amazing.

Envy is a sore loser and a relentless opponent. She keeps returning for rematches. She even gets the best of me sometimes and takes me back to those desolate places of insecurity and doubt. But when prayer and gratitude and doing my best to love others as God loves others returns to my life, envy is forced to retreat and must wait to fight another day.

The best is yet to come…


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