“If Only I Had Her Verbs! On Jealousy, Creativity, and a Generous God.”
It was the title of a plenary session talk about to be given by Rachel Held Evans at a conference I attended last year. I knew I had to show up. Not just because I had paid for it. Because God hit me upside the head with the title and got my attention.
The title got me, because I had more than an inkling she was going to go there. There, to that place I knew would be raw and painful to the touch. Like the time I had to let my husband dig a piece of glass out of my foot while I cried and grasped the chair like it was a rope hanging off the Sears Tower. (It will always be the Sears Tower to those of us raised near Chicago.) The glass had to come out so I could walk. But the process threatened my polite pastor’s vocabulary.
Jealousy of other writers, other pastors, other professionals who are where I want to be. Saying what I want to say. With platforms that actually get them heard. And I am jealous.
Yes, it’s ugly and counterproductive and hard to admit. But it’s real. And I don’t think I’m alone.
I have one prayer practically every day: “More You, less me.” Short and to the all-too-mortifying point. I despise my own obsession with me. But I have a tough time getting over myself.
Is anyone with me here?
I echo John the Baptist so often in my personal moments of chastisement. “He must increase, and I must decrease.” God, that’s what I want. But I lack the mad skills to know how exactly that happens when the mind is an insistent thing clamoring for me to live inside its walls and telling me the internet reception is better there anyway.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the demon on one shoulder telling me I’m the best thing since CS Lewis and why don’t people recognize that or the demon on the other shoulder insisting I’m a huge fraud with no talent who should have gone to law school as planned because at least there putting on a show is acceptable business. Neither one, you might have noticed, is an angel. Both have the same goal—to get us to think about ourselves. Only ourselves. And to obsess over where those selves stand in the world of other selves. Above or below? We have to know.
(For the record, I have never believed myself to be the best thing since CS Lewis. That is called hyperbole. Just so you don’t think I’m that far gone.)
It’s the season right now where we reflect on the reality that Jesus showed us the way to walk the road of humility.
“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).
That leaves very little room for pride to wiggle around in. It leaves no space at all for jealousy, when the position we should all be aspiring to is sacrifice of privilege and even of life. As I focus on Jesus’ willingness not to be recognized, not to be thanked, not to be honored as the King he was, my own need for recognition fades into a pinprick of nothingness.
More You, less me.
Rachel’s phrase she repeated several times was, “There is enough room out there for everyone. God is a generous God.” I know this to be true. I believe it with everything in me. I want to live it. I vowed to live it.
Then, with those best intentions evidently not-so-firmly in place, I open Facebook on Monday to hear all about my writer friends who are doing great things. And all those intentions sink in a sea of thoughts like, “That’s so not fair!/ Why is that not my life?/ I said that first!/Well goody for you little Miss Sunshine I hope you enjoy it while it lasts.”
I can be pretty virtually rude in the grasp of jealousy.
Usually, I am content to be very happy for others’ success. I can want mine and love theirs. But some days, it feels like their comes at the expense of mine. That so smacks of older brother rivalry of his little prodigal bro. I don’t like being that brother. It’s living in the lie of scarcity when God has promised us abundant life. He didn’t say there was only one abundant life, and it was being rationed. He said he came specifically to give it to each of his sheep.
Why is there such a disconnect between what we know to be true and what we feel to be true when our dreams are threatened? Why does someone else have to be less than so I can be more? Why can’t we live like we believe “There is enough room out there for everyone—God is a generous God”?
He was generous enough to give up his divine privileges and humble himself, even to death on a cross. He made room for everyone when he burst open the tomb and took out its door forever. I want to choose to live in that abundance of room.
Less me. More you. God, every, every day. Until it’s true.
Jill Richardson is the pastor of Real Hope Community Church near Chicago. She is the author of six books and a national speaker, as well as a contributor to books from Dayspring, Lillenas, and Christianity Today. Jill’s doctorate in "Church Leadership in a Changing Context" is helping her with her passion—passing on a healthy, creative church and doing it with the next generation. She is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Bethel Seminary (St. Paul), and Washington University. Her focus is on church leadership, creative preaching, immigration and refugees, women’s issues, and intergenerational leadership. She has an unnatural love for Middle-earth, chocolate marzipan, old musicals, fish tacos, oceans, cats, and Earl Grey. She believes in Jesus, grace, restoration, kindness, justice, and the Cubs. You can find her work at jillmrichardson.com.