Note: If you're not an introduction/personal details person... scroll down to "ENVY BRINGS BONDAGE" for the meat and potatoes.
The first 24 hours after bringing Will home from the hospital were beautiful. I loved the new dynamic of teamwork that I was experiencing with my husband. My heart was full of wonder and thankfulness... and my veins were still pumping with adrenaline from our natural birth. I hadn't slept... and at that point I really didn't want to. I was too busy soaking it all in (and making sure Will was breathing).
While I was energized and in a state of euphoria, my husband was exhausted from labor, which he demonstrated by sleeping for almost the entire time we were in the hospital. After 16 hours of watching someone moan in pain and holding their hand while their body was obliterated in the practice of pushing (he saw far more than he cared to see, i think).... I probably would have wanted a good long nap too. He rallied for our first 24 hours home. But, I think both of us were thinking... "all we have to do is keep this thing alive until my mom gets here."
When she did arrive, David gladly handed over his reigns. He was content to let my extremely capable and probably better suited mother take over completely, and I would've done the exact same thing. I say content... but I'm honestly not sure he had anything left to give at that point.
Enter Envy. Envy is a nasty little animal which took day four of my baptism by fire into motherhood as an opportunity to rear its ugly head. I wouldn't have been able to call it "envy" at the time. I probably would have explained it away as fatigue or an "adjustment"... but it was envy. I was jealous of my husband: who could sleep through every nighttime grunt that kept me from sleeping (it had become very clear to me by day four that sleep was not as overrated as I had deemed it); who could escape the stress from the frantic sounds coming from our panicked infant bobbing at my breast simply by looking at his phone (whoever said babies know how breastfeed when they get here hadn't met Will); who could get up in the morning because he heard his alarm, not crying, and go to work all day and interact with people who could talk back; who could maintain his sense of self and some semblance of his former routine; who could sit down and relax without seeing all of the things that needed to be "picked up"; who could sit down at all without pain; who could go to the bathroom without filling a squirt bottle with warm water; the list went on and on.
I relayed all of these feelings in an accusatory rant... which my mother interrupted to send me to my room saying I was not allowed to speak to the outside world or come out until I had slept. A dose of sleep can make a big difference for perspective and self control... but the lack of it never excuses our behavior. I repented, apologized, received forgiveness, and started to sleep more. Everyone survived what we now refer to as the episode associated with my "hormonal crash."
But I felt those feelings start to well up again last night (a far cry from day four and therefore inexcusable by words like "hormones" and "fatigue") as my husband and I discussed our plans for the following day. We had tickets to a local golf tournament and David wanted to follow his childhood icon Davis Love, who had an early morning tee time. He relayed how excited he was to run ahead to the next hole and have a good view for all 18. It became very clear to me at this point that Will and I couldn't be a part of this exciting plan.
Enter Envy, again. I wanted to go somewhere for the day without a thought of where I was going to change a diaper or how I was going to find an appropriate place to breastfeed. I wanted to run from hole to hole without the fear of turning my sons brain into scrambled eggs in our baby bjorn. I wanted to be able to know what time I could reasonably leave the house without being at the mercy of what time my son would wake up and what pace he would choose to have during his morning feed. I wanted to be free to do whatever I wanted.
Enter Harsh words, harsh words my husband translated and repeated back to me in summary form as "It sounds like you want me to get in a tub of ice and stay there until I feel as miserable as you seem to be." The old addage "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" comes to mind. I was out to strip him of every freedom he could enjoy that I couldn't. I was thinking of myself and not my sweet spouse who works crazy hours and rarely does anything for his own pleasure because he's thinking of me and of Will and making it possible for me to not have to work outside of the home. I was jealous of his freedom in the wake of our shared responsibility.
ENVY BRINGS BONDAGE
Regardless of whether or not you relate to my particular example of envy of my spouse, you've doubtless experienced envy at some point during your time as a mother... even if your envy is directed towards an ideal you've dreamed up in your mind. Envy binds us up and blinds us and prevents us from living in the glorious freedom that Christ purchased for us by confusing us about the purpose of life and who we are. Four things come to mind:
Envy prevents us from enjoying God's good gifts.
When I see only what I do not have, I become blind to the things He has given me. If I see my role as a mother as something hindering me, I will inevitably begin to resent my child as something in my way instead of cherishing him as an answer to prayer and acknowledging how kindly and abundantly God has dealt with us in giving us a healthy baby boy. In believing that I deserve more, better, or different than what I have been given, I choke the gratitude I should feel for being given anything at all when I deserve nothing. Envy prevents us from enjoying God's good gifts.
Envy prevents us from enjoying our God given roles.
When I see only what I am NOT able to do because I am a mom, I miss the blessing of feeling fulfilled within that role. I forget that I AM doing what I want. I miss the beauty in the wonderful assignment I have been given to care for this child in a way that no one else can. I begin to resent the work God has given me and I am robbed of the ability to enjoy it. Envy prevents us from enjoying our God given roles.
Envy prevents us from enjoying others.
When I see others as keepers of that which I desire but do not possess, I inevitably begin to store up bitterness against them and lose the ability to rejoice with them in gain, or mourn with them in loss. I become isolated. Envy of my husbands role within our shared task of parenting causes me to resent him and want to prevent his joy, rather than seeking to cultivate rest and pleasure for him. I cannot encourage him in the difficult areas of his role because I am too busy idealizing it. At its very core, envy is self seeking, and therefore strips us of the joy of delighting in and enjoying others. Envy is an enemy to fellowship. Envy prevents us from enjoying others.
Envy prevents us From enjoying God, himself.
When I look at what others possess, or am consumed with the thought of what I wish I had that I do not, I deny the character of God to be good and wise. I deny that the grace he has given me is the grace that I need and I miss the opportunity to enjoy him and be made more like Jesus within it. I lose the chance to praise him for his benevolence and his omnipotence by stomping my foot and claiming that he is withholding something from me. Because it lies to us about his character and prevents us from seeing him as he is, envy prevents us from enjoying God, himself.
JESUS BRINGS FREEDOM
When I remember what God has done for me in Christ, I am set free from the bonds that envy places on me. I am free to enjoy the good things he gives me, namely my child and my spouse, because I remember the state I was in when Christ died for me, deserving nothing at all. Every gift he gives over and above salvation is an act of pure grace and abundant, unnecessary kindness. I am free to enjoy my God given role as I recall the way the blood of Jesus redeems work. Rather than resenting the task he has given me, I can flourish within it, delighted that I have been given a role at all in accomplishing his kingdom work. The gospel gives context to my role by placing it within the larger story of redemption, where Christ on a cross is at the center, not me and my silly desires. I am free to enjoy others because I see that I have been given everything I need in Christ and therefore cannot view them as enemies to me getting what I want. I can appreciate the differences in my husband's role and mine because Christ's death has united us and made us one body, in which different parts are uniquely gifted for different roles, each of which has dignity. I am free to enjoy God, himself when I see the cross and the empty tomb and am reminded that he is good and sovereign. He has withheld nothing from me, giving his own son that I could have life. I see his sovereignty over history in his word, where his perfect plan unfolds to restore creation to himself. I see his goodness to a rebellious people who think they know better as he protects them from their desires by giving them himself. Jesus, the great high priest, makes it possible to repent of the envy I feel, receive the forgiveness of my Father, and be empowered by the Holy Spirit to ENJOY gifts, tasks, people, and God himself, fully satisfied and lacking nothing.
He gently leads us to repentance and offers freedom.