I am so envious.
I’m envious of people with really good teeth. Especially when they’ve never seen an orthodontist and they drink liters of black coffee between donut-chewing and not flossing. They do all this while smiling, by the way.
I’m envious of women who OWN that two-piece swimsuit even after their bodies have sagged and settled.
Yes, I do jiggle and bounce up this beach. And??
This kind of bikini-wearer isn’t worried about containment because she is too busy with freedom. When I find these women I study them as I would aliens — my head tipped, brow furrowed curiously, mouth gaping. I like their kind. Teach me your ways, space creatures.
And I’m envious of deep things, sacred things. I’m envious of joyful girls who have snuggly fathers and of patient mothers with healthy ovaries and of any human or non-human who rests well at night and is sure of the voice of Jesus.
My envy is a husky, red-dressed opera singer who will not get off the stage. When she pushes out from behind the curtain, I suddenly can’t hear any other singers: not Love, in that warm and encompassing bass; certainly not Hope, with her ethereal whisper. And Faith seems to bail completely, diving headfirst into the orchestra pit. Envy makes certain I will not enjoy myself or anybody else. This bossy soprano gets stuck in a crescendo loop — her highest, strongest notes dominating the room — until I want to pop right out of my skin. I can jam fingers in my ears but her glass-shattering song still finds a way to pull all my triggers.
Envy’s vibrato is loyal, but she is a fierce and cunning devil, always stealing my life space, always proposing a clever promise. I don’t know what to do with her sometimes because although she knots me up inside, her lies are beautiful: If you had THAT, you’d feel like THIS. And if you felt like THIS, everything would be ok.
I do ask God to escort her sassy ass out the back door, remembering all of what he has warned about her — how anti-love she plays. But he usually says something like:
She’s here for a reason, you know. You can’t just ignore her or pray her away. Don’t invite her to sit for tea, but do pay attention. Why is she visiting so often, my love? Where is she poking you? What do you keep hoping she’ll offer? Answer these, and you’ll find something true about yourself and something true about me.
They are deeply personal questions, aren’t they? I don’t want to answer them for you. But I will answer them for myself, at least in part, and maybe you’ll find you can relate.
ENVY VISITS WHEN I FORGET WHO I AM
She stays when I refuse to live as one Beloved. Now. Just as I am.
Size four jeans (or six or eight) will never hold me; I could spend a lot of time shut up in my room, grunting and sweating and doing bad yoga moves trying to push myself into them. And nobody would ever see me again, as this would be an eternal effort, not to mention a fruitless one. Those clothes are lovely and fine, but they aren’t mine to wear.
Envy has been loud and proud in my ear lately, telling me I need to write more like THIS person and THAT person. The immediate problem is I’m not THIS person or THAT person; I don’t speak like THIS and I don’t live like THAT. I cannot become the ambassador I’m uniquely fashioned to be if I’m too busy longing for and living someone else’s ________.
ENVY DOESN’T POKE ME, GOD, SHE STABS ME
She stabs me right in the center of my need, in the place where I am aching for something, for someone. She always uses a version of truth to pierce me and push the knife in, but then she twists it into a big, bloody mess.
Don’t you want to be special? she asks. Respected? Loved?
Yes, of course. I’m made by love, with love, for love. That’s exactly what I want, what we all want.
Sure you do. Well, anyway, THIS writer here and THAT writer over there? — They are special AND loved because of what they’re doing, because of what they have. If you say THIS and be THAT, you can be special and loved too.
She may lie in the end, but do you see the hidden gift here? The reason I need to pay attention? My envy exposed two of the most vulnerable and beautiful truths about me: 1) I have needs, and 2) I cannot fulfill them.
I HOPE ENVY WILL OFFER ME PEACE
I keep hoping she’ll meet those good needs in me, or at least lead me to what or who can. I want her to soothe my pain, make me feel like enough, give me a purpose. But she won’t, because she can’t. And even if Envy could satiate, she’d only offer the temporary, counterfeit goods. Remember? Cramming my thighs into size four jeans? — My gifts into somebody else’s life? That’s all just chasing wind. If it’s not the way to be who I am for the glory of the one who made me, it’s certainly not the way to fulfill my heart’s desire.
In short, this is Envy’s climactic high note: Her forever job is to get me to believe my need can be met by the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time. Surely this is too many wrongs to lead to any kind of peace.
THE SOMETHING TRUE
Envy blinds. She is a false protector, a distraction, and a sure way to escape vulnerability. I have used her a thousand times to avoid standing face to face with what I’m actually feeling and experiencing inside; a thousand more to carve out my own way, to build my golden calf.
When I envy others, I don’t have to get way down inside the painful desire I have to be special and loved for who I am; I’m too distracted trying to become someone else. I also won’t have to profess what I’ve perceived to be weakness: That I’ve had God-given need my entire life. Nor must I explore the moments that caused it to feel like an unmanageable, aching, raging dragon. When I envy what is not mine, my own goodness, gratitude, grief – they all pile up in me and hold their breath. They become lost somewhere off the path of expression and healing and resurrection. When I’m off that path, I don’t have to explore my own dark and glorious heart or God’s mysterious and lavish one. This can feel like the safest way, but it’s never the one that leads to abundant life.
Envy has always been one of my most dependable routes to the disconnected and inauthentic. But I am made for so much more, and oh how I tire of her same old song.
Unless we’re talking about teeth, of course. I still want good teeth.