Our Stories: Envy, a Rot in my Bones

I don’t spend a lot of time on social media. Not compared to the average person. I mean, I don’t think so. After the other day I most assuredly should not spend more time there if this is how I’m going to behave.

I decided to check on a friend on FB. It had been a while. Perhaps it would be good to “like” some photo or post. Let her know I was thinking of her. The first thing I saw on her feed was a stunning photo, like National Geographic  quality. She was seated on a shining chestnut-horse, standing atop a cliff overlooking the Rio Grande Valley 1000 feet below with the Sangre de Christo mountains of New Mexico radiant in pale pink and rose in the distance. The Blood of Christ. In the warm sun she only wore a light jacket.

A wave of jealousy like an ocean roller boiled me over. I wanted that. Why did she have this privilege and not me? Why did she deserve such a beautiful vacation? It had been days since we had seen the sun in Minnesota. Between snow and rain, every day was chill and gray. Why must I pull on a down jacket every time I opened the door and ran to the henhouse. I was jealous. Feeling sorry for myself, my eyes misted over.

It only took seconds to begin real crying—what was this ugliness? This envy? Why should I begrudge the beauty and vacation she was enjoying? I know how wrong this is. Discouraged, I wondered how I could possibly change my instincts; my envy has risen unbidden.

In any case, that’s nothing compared to murder, rape and other kinds of mayhem. But God does not rationalize. The last commandment: Thou shall not covet.

That evening Anita and I spontaneously made a fire outdoors. Gathered downed branches and twigs from the ravine. Found last summer’s hot dogs in the freezer. Marshmallows. Red wine. $10 worth of firewood from Kwik Trip. Three hens hanging on the grass beside us. Pecorino and Brie pecked up the last of the ketchup on my plate and wiped their beaks on the grass, then panicked and tore in opposite directions to hide from a large hawk floating overhead—they spotted it way before we did. As the sun set and the air chilled, wrapped in scarves and blankets Denis read his latest limerick, as we chatted into the night until the wood turned to glowing coals and hot ash.

“My beloved just bought a new laptop,
And hoped she could just use it nonstop.
But to update each setting
Caused a great deal of fretting,
So we are headed right back to the shop.”

That night I lay in bed reluctantly processing the day knowing I needed confession. My thoughts about that friend were ungracious. Unkind. What have I to complain about? I have an abundance of love from Denis. Friendship with our housemate, Anita. That very day we had wood to build a fire. Some don’t. Blankets kept us warm. Simple food to enjoy. Pet chickens that make me laugh. Should I complain when so many in the world would opt for just one of these things? Don’t misunderstand. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a horse and a mountain view. It’s that this heart of mine was awash in envy and needed restoration.

As I write this, we are entering the time of the church year called Lent. How timely for my soul! It is the period of fasting and regret for one’s sins observed from Ash Wednesday until the dawning Joy of Resurrection Day. During Lent our eyes and hearts turn to the Cross of Christ in a special way to be reminded of what it cost Jesus to redeem people like me whose offences may be hidden from you, but not from God.

During Lent, the Bishop of the Anglican Church of Kenya ends each service with a blessing and asks everyone in the congregation to use their bodies to pray. Here in Minneapolis where we worship each Sunday we, too, have learned our African Brother’s blessing. We are invited to sweep our hands toward the cross above the altar with each refrain and then, with the last refrain, together we sweep our hands toward heaven.

All our problems of this life on earth:
We send to the cross of Christ.

All the difficulties of our circumstances:
We send to the cross of Christ.

All the devil’s works from his temporary power:
We send to the cross of Christ.

All our hopes for wholeness and eternal life:
We set on the risen Christ.

Yes. That’s it. It’s all I need.

Photo credit: Photo by Jerry Zhang on Unsplash.