From the Basement

October 21, 2010

“Love One Another”: On Jealousy in Friendships

Today, I want to talk about jealousy. This is an issue that I’ve felt called to write about because it’s an issue I have struggled with for many, many years. Thing is, it’s the sort of sin that usually keeps itself quiet, only occasionally rearing its ugly head in all its grotesque splendor… it was a thought here and there, a desire, a strong emotion, usually distilled by the passing of time and distance from those involved.

I have never had a female “best friend” – the quintessential best friend, the dynamic duo, the person you go to for everything. However, God has always given me an eclectic, dynamic group of close female friends. From the time I was in middle school, I have been surrounded by wonderful women, by one or two handfuls of close friends to go to for various issues, whether spiritual, emotional, familial, romantic, academic… you get the idea. I was never a “loner,” but because I didn’t have that BFF, I thought I was somehow less. Insecurity is a bee-yatch, you guys.

Because of this – the always having several close friends but never one BFF – jealousy has been a struggle, especially – exclusively? – with close friends who themselves are a “pair” of best friends – always together, roommates, you get the idea. Many times, though, it wasn’t a “struggle” because I gave into it immediately, letting it fester and poison several friendships, for which I am sincerely sorry.

It’s one of those deep, dark corners of the heart that you keep locked away, an issue that’s never talked about. But the problem with those sins is that though they seem dormant (or so it seems), they are really taking root, twining themselves around your heart, and the longer the sin goes unconfessed, the longer it’s not dealt with, the worse it gets.

Today was a big step: I confessed this jealousy to one of my closest friends – the friend I’ve asked to be my Maid of Honor. She has a BFF who is also a friend of mine, and telling her about this feeling of jealousy was a huge step for me. She immediately forgave me, and in turn asked forgiveness for any slights on her part, and oh, does it feel like a weight to have it in the open, freely confessed and forgiven.

Ironically enough, it was selecting my bridal party that brought this issue to a head. I had only ever planned on having my sister, which saved me from the inevitable drama of picking other people (and being reminded of how many of my close friends have a “bestie”). However, I’m getting married significantly earlier than I ever thought, which means my sister is too young to be my Maid of Honor. Also, my affianced is having four groomsmen, and as cool as I am with having uneven numbers of attendants, 1-4 is a rather awkward ratio.

So, I was tasked with selecting other attendants, and suffice to say, I ended up with 6 attendants total. 3 are the sisters – my sister and his sisters, who I love dearly. The other 3 are close friends – there’s my MoH, who was one of my closest friends all through college, and then two of my oldest friends.

It was here where the sin in my heart really became noticeable. Of the three friends in my bridal party, all have a “bestie,” and most have been bridesmaids in other friends’ weddings. The issue of jealousy was ugly, ugly, ugly. I was afraid that they didn’t reciprocate the friendship, didn’t treasure our friendship as I did. There was the knowledge that I may not be included in their bridal party, and thus there was the fear of rejection, of having a bridal party full of friends who I care about but who are “meh” about me. Fears of rejection – fear of what others think – insecurity – desperation for acceptance… all ugly emotions existing in me.

I’m only starting to deal with this sin, and turning to scripture is a must. But it’s not enough to go to scripture that condemns envy and chronicles its ill effects, nor is it enough to turn to famous verses on friendship. First, we must start with love – with God’s love. Bathing ourselves in the light that is the love of God is a direct attack on the sin in our lives – in the face of His awesome love, nothing can stand.

John 3:16: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Matthew 22:36-40: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

John 13:35: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 15:12-15: “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (italics mine)

1 Corinthians 13: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.Love never fails…. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 John 4:8: Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Galatians 5:22-26: But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

The greatest gift anyone on this earth will ever know is the all-powerful, all-consuming, incredible, passionate, unceasing love of God. And when we come to know this love, embodied in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are filled with the Holy Spirit, by which we are enabled to love our neighbor as ourselves. Christ tells us that the world will know we are his disciples by this: that we love one another.

Envy is the enemy of love. It is, by definition, self-serving and self-seeking: “A feeling of discontent and resentment aroused by and in conjunction with desire for the possessions or qualities of another.” It is insecure. It is not satisfied, and it is easily spun into idolatry as we seek full satisfaction in something that is not God. It does not rejoice in the good gifts of the Father but whines and pines for more. There is a reason that “Thou shalt not covet” is one of the ten commandments (Exodus 20:17).

Envy of relationships is a particularly insidious sort, because not only does it give way to idolatry (hence poisoning your love for God by seeking satisfaction in something other than him), but it also poisons love for your neighbor. When you are jealous of someone else’s friendship, or relationship, or marriage, or children, how can you love them? How does Christ’s love thrive and edify? Answer: it doesn’t.

Scripture chronicles the consequences of envy:

Proverbs 14:30: A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

Ecclesiastes 4:4: And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

James 3:14-16: If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. (italics mine)

Lord, I confess the sin of envy in my life and I beg your forgiveness and your mercy on the friendships it has affected. I want this sin uprooted, and that is only possible through the infusion of your perfect love into my life, the perfect love that casts out fear of rejection and unworthiness. You notice me. You love me. And that is enough; may that ever be enough. You have been so gracious in the relationships you have given me – family, friends, my fiancé – and I pray your blessing on them, that they may be fruitful and give glory to you.

I pray for a passionate, Christ-like love for my friends – all of my friends. Praise God that we are given a diversity of relationships! I am confident that he has brought these varied and wonderful friendships into my life for a reason. When I envy their friendships with other people, when I am concerned about whether my love for them is reciprocated, when I am worried about being accepted or valued, when I am insecure in my own value – these feelings have no place in friendships allowed by his love, and they are attitudes that have no place in the heart of a daughter of the King. He is my God, my Abba Father, and I will praise him:

“Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign Lord? What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Sovereign Lord. For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant. How great you are, O Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.” 2 Samuel 7:18-22

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October 14, 2010

“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” & contemplating job offers

First, let me apologize… give a disclaimer… okay, my fiancé’s voice is going through my head: stop apologizing!

Okay, so I guess what I want to say is, thank you. Thank you for reading, my dear friends, and supporting me. This blog is not neatly edited like chapters from a book or even snippets from a professional blog. It’s composed of my thoughts, imperfect and human that they are, inevitably affected by my own perception, bias, worldview. That doesn’t make them any less honest or any less real, but it does mean that you’re pretty much reading whatever my fingers throw at my poor Mac, without the benefit of an editorial eye.

So, thank you again for reading and putting up with The Craziness that is this unedited material. It’s raw, it’s passionate, it’s honest, and hopefully it makes you think about some area of your own life. Or, at the very least, laugh a little at mine. *smile

I feel a need to do a sort of Q&A with myself about this job (yep, we’re still talking about the job offer). Reason being, I want to challenge myself regarding underlying reasons why I may be disinclined to take the job. As you saw in the last post, there are plenty of (what I think are) viable reasons to say no, e.g. time, expectation, and budget, but let’s really dig in here.

First off is the question of laziness. This has been… I’d call it a struggle, except it really hasn’t been. Over the last few months, I’ve gained weight and been a slouch, falling out of workout habits, overeating, and otherwise exercising a decided lack of discipline in my life.

So, for example, part of my trepidation about the job is because I realized that a move and learning a new job where you’re expected to put in night and weekend hours is possibly going to take more time than I’m able to give. The thing is, that means that my grad school applications might not get finished – because they’ve really yet to be begun. I haven’t finished the books I’m using for the writing sample, let alone started it, and I’m still in brainstorming mode for my statements of purpose. (Just because I got my apps in under the wire last year doesn’t mean I want to do that this year, and anyway, look how that turned out.) So I’m feeling convicted about my laziness in grad school apps and how I’m studdenly feeling convicted re: my lack of good stewardship with time, and how does a desire to “make up” time affect my disinclination to take a job where I wouldn’t have that “make up” time? (Make sense? Probably not. That’s okay.)

Moving would be work. The job would be a lot of work, which would be okay but it’s not my priority right now (grad school apps are) – but then I look at my schedule and say, girl, you’re not disciplined enough to have finished those by now anyway!

Okay: must not beat self up. Must not beat self up.

Also, perhaps there is financial laziness. Really, I’d be working so that I could live independently (working to keep myself in shelter, food, and gas money – seriously), as there’s very little that I’d be able to save over those months. But I’d get the experience of budgeting, etc. Is it lazy to desire to stay here where, because of living at home, I would be able to save more and have to budget less? Is laziness a part of the motivating factor?

There has to be a change in my lifestyle for the better regardless of whether I take this job. I have, have, HAVE to crack down on grad school apps and, frankly, exercising. I’m getting married in 10 months and it’d be nice to have my fiancé actually see a good looking naked woman on our wedding night vs. a flabby one. Harsh? Yeah, and I guarantee he will kill me for writing that since he thinks I look beautiful anyway, but there’s the rub in itself – I need to start exercising more and changing my body for me and my own self-image, which is currently in the toilet.

I have slid into a crazy-undisciplined life, and that needs to stop, regardless.

To kind of explain all this random self-examination and weird emotion, let me tell you about the week so far. I gave this job over to God, expecting of course He’d not offer it to me (thereby preventing all this rumination), and I’d also previously said “God, please work our wedding budget out” because I was so exhausted over it. Turns out the wedding budget we’ve been working on with the most promising location is still double what we can afford. So last night was fraught with anger and tears and today has been crazy emotional, and right now God is reminding me that turning things over to Him actually means that they get turned over to Him, and that working things to the good doesn’t necessarily mean to my definition of good (who knew?). I knew this, you know, with grad school apps last year and unemployment, etc., but for some reason, I was thinking that job stuff and wedding stuff would just work out this month and that I’d have yet another happy reason to praise God, that He’d bring me through the trial of yet another job failure and the triumph of FINALLY having a wedding budget we can afford.

~repeats to self~ He’s still good. He’s still good. He’s still good. He still keeps His promises. He will provide. He knows what He’s doing. He’s allowing these things to happen.

My fears surrounding money are, honestly, the biggest things tainting my reactions to the job and to the wedding budget falling flat on its face. I cannot even begin to describe how much money is a motivating factor in almost everything I do and plan. I am worried about not having enough… constantly. Our wedding budget has been entirely based on fear of not being able to afford more. On the one hand, I am driven by a desire to be realistic and to be a wise steward of funds and not spend what I don’t have (and not take jobs that will not allow for wise financial decisions). But at the same time, I know that ultimately it is not dependent on me… it’s all on God. Our wedding budget, how we’ll pay for grad school apps, how our families will pay for a wedding… God’s gotta work this out, because you guys, I am so afraid and freaked out and flailing right now it’s not even funny. Classic first-born. Organized to a fault, needing to be in control, always concerned about where everything’s going to come from and how things will come together.

This is just me being honest. It’s raw and unedited and imperfect and is at best encouraging and at worst self-centered…

I am reminded right now of how entirely dependent I am on God. For everything. I freak out about money and I let worldly wisdom dictate my decisions and I just want him to work everything out for me so that I don’t have to work any of it out on my own. Times like these, I feel like the height of laziness, self-centeredness, and Laodicea-esque warmth. Like I’m saying “God I trust you!” but I’m feeling “Oh [insert expletive here].” Seriously, that’s just where it is right now.

I love how in Angela Thomas’ books, she relays her own experience but scripture and encouragement and lessons for others are always at the forefront of the chapters. Then I come and read my blog and feel like, wow, I am so not there yet – notice how many times the word “I” is used. ~cringe~ So often I am caught in the whirlwind of Me Me Me that I can’t even lift my head to look out at You and wonder what you’re going through. And I’m sorry for that. Something for the Lord to work in me in the coming years.

I’ve probably referenced this before, but one of my favorite verses in all scripture is “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). That is so honest. It’s so true. So where I’m at. And I’m guessing you’ve been there, too – desperately wanting to cling to the promise of God and yet feeling so convicted in how very selfish, doubting, and human you can be, yet remembering that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.

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