Last year I was jealous of all the lucky writers who went to the Relevant conference. This year, I was still jealous, and I was there.
You see, I have a problem with envy. A big problem.
I spend a lot of time and energy comparing myself to other writers, primarily writers who are farther along on the publishing journey than I am.
Why did she get the book contract? I wonder. Why did she get chosen to write for that group? Why does she have that many readers? Why does she get so many retweets on her posts or likes on her Facebook page? Why do all the good things happen to her and not me?
I know. It’s ugly.
The irony is that while I listened to the Relevant speakers talk about this very issue, I vowed to let my jealousy go. I vowed I would no longer compare myself to other writers. That I would simply write for God and for the readers who showed up at my door. That I would put the publishing journey entirely in God’s hands. That I would rejoice over the accomplishments of my fellow writers and cheer them forward onto greater successes. And I meant it. I felt these promises in my heart, and I was encouraged to begin anew. I felt light and free and joyful.
It lasted four days.
The very same week I returned from Relevant, I read online about two deserving writers who signed book contracts with two major Christian publishers. And rather than rejoice and celebrate with them, my instantaneous reaction was envy. I felt the sharp spike of jealousy sear my core and settle into the pit of my stomach, where it smoldered, a hot ache.
I prayed about it, I did. I put my head in my hands right there at my desk at work, with my officemate sitting three feet behind me, and I prayed that God would destroy my jealousy. I prayed that he would cure me of envy, bitterness and resentment and replace the ugliness with warmth, joy and love.
And nothing happened.
I didn’t feel any better.
In fact, I felt a good bit worse, because now, not only was I rife with envy, I also despaired that God had even heard me, that he had ever heard this particular plea (after all, it wasn’t the first time I’d asked God to cure me of this ugly jealousy; this has been an ongoing conversation between God and me for a while now).
I admit, sometimes I feel so much pressure as I walk this believing life. I expect that as a Christian, as a believer, I should pray and through that process of prayer and repentance, I should be transformed. I don’t expect that it will happen overnight. But I do expect that transformation will happen eventually.
So where does that leave me, when the much-anticipated, much-desired transformation doesn’t occur?
I wonder, how can I be a real Christian, a real believer, if I wrestle with the same sin over and over again, day after day after day? Wouldn’t a real believer have moved beyond this by now? Wouldn’t a real believer, through the grace of God, have grown up and tossed this insidious jealousy aside once and for all? How can the same sin persist in me, despite the fact that I don’t want it, despite the fact that I pray to be rid of it? Why isn't this working?
I don’t have any answers. This post doesn’t have a happy ending (which is a real bummer, because I prefer happy endings). I wish I could say I prayed last week in my office, and then I turned around and my officemate offered up a lovely and timely piece of wisdom that changed my perspective on everything.
But that didn’t happen. In fact, when I confessed a bit of my angst, she asked if I had a meeting lined up with my pastor anytime in the near future.
Clearly I am in a bad state.
What did happen was that I went back to my job, accomplished what I needed to, and then packed my bags, trudged down to the parking lot and began the ten-minute drive home. I popped in the “Jesus CD,” as the kids call it (yes, we only have one), sang Come to Jesus really loudly along with Chris Rice and felt (marginally) better.
So what about you? Have you ever been caught in the relentless sin-repent-repeat cycle? And if you broke free, how in the world did you do it?
And if you're like me and maybe need a bit of the "Jesus CD" this week, sing along with this. It might make you feel better (marginally).