Jealousy and Lies
Updated: Aug 31, 2021
When I am jealous, I separate myself from the goodness God is offering me. At the root of jealousy is always a lie.
The green-eyed monster reared its ugly head this week. It is never pleasant when this happens, but as I have become more familiar with learning to live with loss, I accept that jealousy is a normal part of grief. The first year after John Paul Raphael died was the worst. I couldn’t help but burn with jealousy at every happy mother joyfully holding her healthy baby. I didn’t want her baby for my own. I didn’t want her baby to die. She was just holding what my heart so desperately wanted to hold.
It happens with families too. As a child of divorce, my heart’s desire as a young woman was to marry the love of my life, have a gaggle of children, and raise them within the safety of a close, loving, family. I had that for almost 17 years. It was unthinkable to me that I would be forced to surrender the dream of security an intact family would provide for my babies. Unbearable that they too would be children of divorce.
Recently, we spent time with a lovely young family we have known for many years. They have only one child and are an exceptionally close, happy, connected, fun, and loving family. It is heart-warming to be with them and see how the mom and dad love each other and how devoted they both are to their daughter. I stood and chatted with the mom as the dad laughed and joked and wrestled with their daughter in the perfect dad way. I could see the mom looking at them both with contentment on her face. I saw the daughter full of complete peace and safety. All had always been right with her world. They reminded me of the Holy Family. For several moments, my heart clenched that my children don’t have that. I felt again the loss of my first family and sorrow for the wholeness my children no longer knew. I was jealous.
For a long time, when feelings like this emerged unexpectedly, I would shame myself for them. Eventually, I accepted them as a part of normal grief. Normal, ugly, raw, honest grief.
This week, jealousy arrived on the first day of school. As I tucked myself into bed the night before, I thought of my sweet Nathan starting his junior year of high school the next morning, twenty miles away by his dad’s house. The first first-day of school as a mother that I was not there to make a special breakfast, give an extra hug, and take the requisite smiling photo on the porch. I wouldn’t see him hop in the car and drive himself to school for the very first time. My heart ached as grief and sadness washed over me. Since Nathan left, our family and our home are not complete. Being a part-time caregiver for one of my children is not something I ever wanted for my life.
I texted Nathan to say “I love you” and to wish him well at his new school. I shared how much I missed him and asked him to send a selfie outside of school in the morning if he had a minute. He was very sweet in responding, “Anything for you, Mom.” But in the excitement of the morning, he forgot and no photo arrived. Later, he said that his step-mom had put a nice post on Facebook about his first day with a cute picture if I wanted that one. There it was, the requisite broad-smiling photo of my son, only on a different porch, at a different house, taken by a different woman. Jealousy burned hot on my skin and grief pulled at my heart. It should have been me. A rapid volley of other strong emotions followed – shame, anger, embarrassment, judgement, more jealousy, and more grief. At the core of it all was one crystallized truth: I miss my son.
For me, jealousy* is always an unwelcome visitor. I recognize its distortions and how it can twist something beautiful into a warped resentment. I understand that when I feel jealous, I forget to be grateful for the countless blessings I have in my life. When I am jealous, I separate myself from the goodness God is offering me. At the root of jealousy is always a lie.
A lie that says we are forgotten, unworthy, undeserving, or overlooked.
A lie that says if we had tried harder, been prettier or thinner or smarter we could have the thing we want.
A lie that says God loves this other person more than you.
While these are not conscious thoughts, when I was jealous of the lovely, young family, I was under the influence of many possible lies: that I was forgotten by the Lord, that He was or is displeased with me so He took away my marriage, that He can’t be trusted, that my children aren’t good enough to receive the joy of a happy family.
When I am jealous that someone else is enjoying and celebrating my son, I am crushed by many lies: that in order to be important to Nathan, I need to be there all the time, that he will only love me if he needs me, that I was not good enough to be his mom.
All lies are rooted in fear, loss, grief, and the enemy. And not at all in the character of God. I took the whole mess of myself to the Lord. After excavating the layers of these painful feelings in prayer, I came to the heart of the matter, a place I have been many times before:
Can God be trusted?
Is He good all the time?
Am I always seen and known and loved, even (or especially) when life hurts so much?
Yes, Yes, and Yes.
God has been so faithful to me. So present, so good, so true. He has blessed me abundantly and invited me to peace, purpose and joy while also accompanying Him on the path of sorrow and loss. He has reminded me over and over again how precious I am to Him and that the promise of restoration and redemption is being fulfilled in my life, in His time and in His way. But I am human and forget these things often or fail to live them well in the heat of the moment.
The antidote to lies is always truth.
Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name and you are mine. (Isaiah 43:1)
My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. (2 Cor 12:9)
You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. (Psalm 56:8)
We have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1 John 4:16)
We need to know the truth, protect the truth, and preach it to ourselves every day. We need to fill ourselves with the truth of scripture so we can remember it when we are flat on our faces. We need to bare ourselves with truth before the Lover of our souls so we can live in the freedom of being seen, and known, and loved.
The truth is I am happily married to the love of my life. My children do have a father and a stepfather who love them. The truth is that it is good for Nathan to have many people celebrating and enjoying him. All kids need that. The truth is all things work for good when I try to love the Lord (Rom 8:28), even if I don’t know how that will look.
I don’t know why some people get the story that seems shinier. I don’t know why I live in safety with all the food and money I need while millions don’t. I don’t know why your co-worker got the job you wanted or why your husband chose the other woman or why your friend won’t forgive you or why your child wasn’t spared.
But I do know the truth. You are not forgotten by God. I am not forgotten by God. We are seen and known and loved even when we fail or forget to remember. Even when we are filled with resentments and jealousy and lies. The Lord is always waiting for us to run to Him and pour out our hearts with the good, the bad, and the ugly. His arms are open wide.
We can let ourselves be loved in the moments that are messy and hard. Join me in cultivating kindness and self-compassion as we do the work of going deeper. God is always good and we are always loved. Let yourself be loved.
*I recognize there are distinctions between jealousy, envy, resentment, and discontent. Since my main purpose here is sharing my heart and not conveying theology, please forgive any lack of precision.
scripture art credit to www.walkingwithpurpose.com