Friday, October 05, 2012

Jealousy and the Zero-Sum Game

Some years ago, a woman on an infertility forum I was in made a very profound point that makes more sense to me as time passes. You see, this was a group of faithful Catholic women who were both struggling with the desire to have children and struggling against the notion, broadcast so loudly in both the medical community and the infertility culture at large, that children are a commodity to be demanded and produced at will. This is an incredibly painful rock and hard place to be between. To truly entrust oneself to God and seek to do all that is humanly possible to open oneself to the most optimal health.... and to try to maintain this within a loving and patient relationship with one's spouse, all while yearning for children -- this is a very heavy cross.

And in that support group context, it would occasionally happen that a woman would get pregnant and stay pregnant. And that gave all of the rest of us the occasion to decide how we would react.

Some women were gracious and excited for one so blessed. Oh, we were all excited, but some had an easier time expressing it. Some, myself included, had a harder time with this. After reading through fifty emails of congratulations, and a few rounds of the amazed new mother responding how she is so grateful and thrilled at God's blessing, there would often be at least one honest soul who confessed to having a very hard time at watching someone else be blessed. I imagine there were others who simply quietly slunk off and had a good cry.

It's not that anyone would wish ill on someone who had struggled, but it was just so dang painful, and rejoicing with those who rejoice never seemed harder.

This whole scenario would replay itself every so often, and one of these times was the prompt for the insight that has stuck with me:  God's blessings are not a zero-sum game.

Meaning, of course, that just because God had blessed x person, nothing had been taken away from y person. Your blessing does not diminish me. My blessing does not threaten you.

And that is so, so hard to take in when you are in pain and are already feeling threatened by everything.

I think part of the way we get in pain in the first place is by getting stuck defining goodness in our own self-centered terms. We know we are limited. We know that if we, say, give our time to sewing wonderful outfits, we won't have time for cooking wonderful meals -- or at least not that same time. If we worship a god that we have created in our own image, we think of this god as being as limited as ourselves, probably without being aware of how silly such a god would be. If god has blessed you, that must mean there is less for me. If you didn't exist, I might be the one being blessed. This is why jealousy leads to hatred.

To truly rejoice with the one who rejoices, we need to grasp that the one who bestows blessings is infinite. God is good. It is His nature. He is not some idol like ourselves of our own making.

But again, trusting that God is good when one is in pain is difficult. There were plenty of times when I yelled at God, cried at God, got disgusted at God, and turned away from God in self-pity because of pain. It's that last one that is really the goal of the enemy of our souls. If the devil can get a soul to just poke a toe into the miry tar of self-pity, he will have little more work to do. By just rumpling around the slightest bit in self-pity, that soul will lose sight of God's goodness, love and mercy, and lose sight of its own identity as a child of God who is loved and as a creature of God who, by mere fact of one's existence, owes the Lord reverence and worship in justice.

So much is corrected by praying "Lord, You are God; I am not."

The answer to pain, jealousy, and every other sin and negative thing we experience is to bring them to God for a good long show-and-tell. Just make sure you are talking to the real God, and not navel gazing, or you are really just back in the trap of self-pity.

It is hard. But when you bring pain to God, He responds. He acts, He answers, He involves Himself. He is Almighty. He is not a gumball dispenser, though, so along with your pain, bring respect, honor and surrender.

Because you want out. You want the blessing this time.

Instead of cursing the candle which has shown you God's blessing is possible, extend your wick in faith and trust, and receive the light of Christ.

No comments: