Childlike Jealousy

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This morning I endured unexpected and unrelenting crying from one of my kiddos.  One of my boys took his bike to the bicycle mechanic to work on his chain while the other refused to accompany him.  His refusal came with uncontrollable crying. You know, the kind of crying where streams of drool are slinging all over.

Sure, my children cry on occasion, but rarely like this.  Especially when no physical injury is involved.

Usually I do not allow my boys to go on bike rides alone, but require them to go together.  The beauty of having twins. But after unsuccessfully trying to send the crying child, I allowed the solo adventure for chain repair.

Meanwhile, I sent the hysterical one to cry on the couch while I checked my emails.  Being the sensitive child that he is, he couldn’t handle that solitary environment for long, and found his way onto my lap.  Mind you, the couch is literally seven steps from where I was sitting.

I broke out the essential oils, attempting to alter the mood.  

The magic didn’t work instantly.

I offered a banana.  I figured the breakfast of my leftover birthday cake could have been the culprit.  (Don’t judge, I have one birthday a year. And it was on a Friday. If I was going to have birthday cake for breakfast on a Saturday, then I had to offer it to the spectators as well.)

He refused to eat it.

Then the begging began.

Can I ride your bicycle?

I told him no, and rubbed his back as I read emails and ignored his request, which was on rapid repeat.  Tears were still flowing.

I can be pretty tough sometimes.  But I really don’t want to indirectly teach my children that whining and complaining is the way to get their requests.  So I resist with a balance of resolution and compassion. That can be a tricky feat sometimes.

So, I tried to get the bottom of the issue.

His bicycle is faster than mine.  Totally untrue.  They are exactly the same, except one is blue and the other is yellow.  I even sarcastically suggested maybe his brother’s legs were faster…I know, that one should have stayed in my head.  But it rolled off his back like his tears would roll off a duck’s feathers.

A couple days before, they were racing and it led to a little injury that has resulted in some limping.  The crying child was the victim in that circumstance. He started complaining that he was afraid his brother would hurt him again.  I bought into that one.

Turns out it was not really the root of the problem.

You always let him ride your bicycle, but you never let me.  I’ve only ridden it once. Ok, twice.  Of course this hyperbole was also not exactly true.  But I knew to his small heart, it was as close to true as he could imagine in that moment.

If you let me ride your bicycle, when I come back, I will rub your back.  Wow.  This was getting serious.  We had moved to bribes. And what a beautiful thing that my child knows me well enough that he knows what I would really appreciate.  (Of course, back rubs given by small children are rarely satisfying.)

If you let me ride your bicycle I will never do a bad thing again.  This is how you know that the request is extremely deep in a child’s heart.  What a tempting offer he has presented…if only it was actually possible for him to follow through with his end of the bargain, then I may have accepted.

By this time, his brother had gone to the mechanic, had his chain fixed, and made it back up the big hill to our house.  He returned, so excited about how fast his bike was working now. Not exactly the most helpful statement at the time.

So, I invited the brother into the conversation about how to solve the issue of the crying and desire for riding my bike.

Truth finally came out.

Last night, one little boy was allowed to ride my bike because his was out of commission due to a faulty chain.  There is a hotel near our house on a road with almost no traffic. Perfect for children to ride their bikes. While I was working on supper, they were given permission to ride from home and around that hotel two times.  One on his bike. One on my bike.

So….the real issue this morning wasn’t pain or fear of a repeated injury.  Crying didn’t come because his bike was slower than his brother’s. The problem was jealousy.  He was jealous of his brother’s opportunity to ride my bike the evening before.

These statements were admitted with a dry face.  Together we identified the true problem as jealousy.  We talked about how jealousy was not the best reaction, but instead he should have been happy that his brother had another option when his bike wasn’t working, and they could still ride together.  He could even be happy that his own bicycle is functioning just fine.

After this little life lesson, we made a deal:  He could ride my bike around the hotel twice, just like his brother did last night.  Then they’d come back and get his bike to continue their bike riding excursions. Fair is fair.  I guess.

Miraculously he was instantly very happy with this decision.  Off they went, two dry faces, ready to ride.

As soon as they headed to the door, I felt the lesson I’d been trying to communicate with these young boys, hit me in the gut.

How many times have I had unexpected and unrelenting emotions, even crying, attack me?  

Countless.

I can find myself so upset, unwilling to tackle the things before me.  Not wanting to eat. Feeling so wounded. Yet, when I try to explain what is bringing me down and making my mascara run, none of my explanations seem very reasonable.  At times I may even be found attempting to make ridiculous bargains in my prayers. (Though I’ve never offered to give Jesus a back rub if he gives me what I want.)

Sometimes, if I’m really honest, the truth comes out: jealousy.  It’s jealousy that brings me down.

I will never forget a pastor once defining jealousy as the mindset that you deserve what someone else has, or that what they have should be yours.  

How many times have I been a mess because I want to be married?  Live in a different place? Have more obedient children? Fit into my clothes the way I used to?  Earn a higher income? The list goes on…

Now, I don’t find myself thinking things like her husband should have chosen me, I want to live in her house, I wish I had those children, etc.  It usually plays out a little more generally.  Having a husband would make this so much easier.  If I lived somewhere else I wouldn’t have to deal with these struggles.  Why don’t these kids listen to what I tell them to do?  

See, that doesn’t sound like jealousy.  I am not envying a particular person (most of the time).  But I do have this deep sense that I deserve better than what I have.  That I shouldn’t have to endure what I am dealing with. That the so-called better life that everyone else seems to enjoy should be available to me too.

Unlike the bike issue in the morning, my issues can’t be worked out so easily.  God isn’t in the business of striking deals with His children to settle fairness debates.

But if I can identify the root of my issues as jealousy, when that is indeed what is happening, then I should be able to handle them better.  

I should have the maturity to be happy for other people who are able to enjoy the things that I see as good, and would also want.  I should look for the good in my circumstances. I can recognize that having whatever it is my heart is longing for at the moment, will not actually solve all my problems.  I may even be able to have the wisdom that the thing I’m jealous for isn’t what I really need, but there is a different and better solution available.

In the reality, I don’t deserve a husband, a better place to life, perfectly behaved children, a smaller dress size, a bigger paycheck, or anything of the like.  So, the jealousy is unfounded.

But jealousy is not always unfounded.

You’ve heard it said that God is a jealous God.

Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.  Exodus 34:14

Sometimes that doesn’t seem right to us, because we have been taught that jealousy is bad.  So how could God, a good God, be jealous?

Well, sometimes jealousy can be righteous.  Sometimes we believe we deserve something that someone else has, and we are right.  It truly is ours. Like if your husband is giving another woman special attention. He is your husband, so it makes sense for you to be jealous of that attention.  How it got to that point or how you react, now that is a different story…

God certainly can be jealous.  In Exodus 34, the situation was that people were worshipping false gods.  And the LORD was jealous of their worship. He deserved to be worshipped by His people.  These false gods did not deserve their worship. Only the one true God deserved it. So he was jealous.

Maybe we are not putting up Asherah poles like the Israelites were doing.  Maybe we are not forming physical idols and putting them on our mantels, praying to them in the evenings.

But maybe we are worshipping the idea of a different lifestyle in some way.  Wanting something different from the blessings God has given us.  Believing satisfaction will come from something or someone other than God himself.

In the midst of our unrighteous jealousy, God has a righteous jealousy for us.  For our worship. For our love. For our devotion.

God forgive us for our jealous hearts and discontent attitudes.  Help us to be content in the life and love you have offered us. May we desire to live lives that do not force you to be jealous for our worship.

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Regular Customer

Living in Uganda, I’ve come to see the value in being someone’s regular customer.

I have a variety of motivations for consistently going to the same person for my purchases.

They are the closest, or most convenient.

They need the business more than others.

I know how to find/contact them, so I don’t have to find someone else.

They are friendly.

They don’t cheat me or charge me a Mzungu price.

They peel and cut my pineapple without any extra charge.

Their phone number is in my contact list.

 

In the past two days I experienced another little perk of being a repeat customer: bonuses.

Yesterday I was driving past the lady’s home who usually does my mending and peculiar American sewing projects, and she flagged me down.  I told her I’d stop by on my way back, not sure why she wanted me to come to her house.  On my way back, I parked the car and jogged down the dirt path to her door.  When I entered, she gathered seven avocados and put them in a bag for me to carry home.  I don’t think she even knows that I love avocados.  She was just being nice to her client, and even provided me with a variety of ripeness.

This morning I had a couple of quick errands to run.  When I filled my gas tank, it took more than I expected, stealing some money from what I had allotted for my purchases in the market.  With the equivalent of about $4, I went to my usual spot near the front of the market to buy some carrots.  (Yes mom, carrots.)  Being a good business woman, the lady asked me if I wanted any cucumbers.  I hadn’t wanted any…until she said something about them.  But considering the limitations of my wallet and my list, I denied the suggestion.  As she handed me the bag of carrots, she threw in a cucumber for free.  A bonus for being her customer.

I picked up a couple more things, then headed back to the van.  The last stop was a couple blocks away, where men park their bicycles, heavy laden with pineapples.  Seeing me coming, a man came out to the road, beckoning me to him.  I opened my window and asked for two pineapples peeled and cut.  (I really don’t enjoy peeling and cutting pineapple, to the point of it deterring me from buying it very often.  Then I realized that I could have the man selling it to me do the dirty work.  Bliss.)  Moments later he came back with a plastic bag, filled with the juicy fruit.  But he quickly told me not to drive off yet.  He went pack to the pile and picked out another pineapple, cut and peeled it, packed in a plastic bag, and thrust it through my open window, saying it was a bonus for being his customer.

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(We already ate one of the avocados.)

I drove home very happy with these extra treasures in my bags.  And I couldn’t help but reflect on the generosity I’d received.  Sure, it may have been laced with an attempt to secure my loyalties,nonetheless it was good business sense, and just plain nice.

Am I as generous as these people?  Considering my limited profit margin, am I willing to offer people such sacrifices?  Do I make an effort to appreciate and bless people in my life?  whether regular or just passing by?

 

Dishes, Lesson #5

Ekikopo (eh-chee-koh-poe)

I don’t know how to write phonetically.  But I think you get the idea.

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I’m working on some language lessons these days.

The method I’m trying to convince my friend to use in teaching me, highly relies on visuals and me listening.

Ekikopo means cup.  You can almost hear the word cup hidden in there.  So it’s an easy one.  Actually, I’ve known it for a long time.  But sometimes I like to keep those familiar words in the pile to help me build up my confidence in learning new words.

Cups are constantly in my sink, needing attention.  I’m living in a culture that lives on tea.  I mean, not literally, but sometimes it feels like.  The little boys in my home drink a cup of tea every morning with their breakfast.  And if I wasn’t afraid of wet sheets, they’d probably have another one after school everyday.  I usually have at least one cup of tea (if not several) throughout the day.  And basically anyone who comes to my house does as well.  And these tea-drinking visitors are frequent.

So, I’m often swishing my dish cloth around these ebikoko.  (That’s cups.  As in plural.  Yeah, I’m learning some things.  Who’s got my gold star?)

Most of the time when I am washing cups, my mind inevitably goes to a Scripture.  One where Jesus was talking to the religious leaders about washing cups.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee!  First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

Matthew 23:25-26

At first glance, a cup might look clean.

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You might grab it, ready to fill it up.  But looking inside could stop you in your tracks.

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No one wants to use the cup that is dirty on the inside for their next cup of tea.

What a simple, yet powerful picture Jesus gave the Pharisees to see how they were living their lives.  They were putting up the image that they were perfect, holy, righteous, to be admired…Yet, they were disgusting, repulsive even, on the inside.

If you see a cup is a little dirty on the outside, but clean on the inside you might be tempted to use it, if you’re desperate (or really hate washing dishes).  But if it is dirty on the inside, I doubt you would even give it a thought at all to go ahead and pour in your beverage.  You’d look for another, or grab the cloth and clean it out.

I’m currently living in a culture that seems to prioritize keeping the outside of the cup clean.

Polishing your shoes before walking on a long, dusty road to school. Wearing your best dress when you are sick and need to go to the hospital.  Washing the car for church, despite the mud you will drive through to get there.

Sometimes I wonder if people are ever as concerned about the sick body going to the hospital. The confused mind walking to school. The broken heart that is being driven to church.

Jesus accused the Pharisees of being full of greed and self-indulgence inside, despite their image.

I don’t know if you have the same ugliness inside of you as Jesus saw in the Pharisees, or if it is something else.  The truth is, we all have some ugliness inside of us.  And Jesus sees it all.  And it needs to be cleaned out.  And it can be cleaned out.

The one who sees the dirtiness the best is the best one to clean it out.

God formed us as His vessels to be used for His purposes.  But too often we mess it up.  The good news is, if we submit to Him, He will clean us up, and once again we will be ready to fulfill His purpose.  But it doesn’t happen just once.  It is a continual process of repentance and cleansing…and refreshing.

When we are clean on the inside, it is even reflected on the outside.

Many times when I’ve got a sudsy ekikopo in my hand I find my mind going to these words of Jesus….don’t just clean the outside of the cup, but the inside as well.  Then it turns to a prayer.

God, forgive me.  Cleanse me.  Keep me from falling into these same sins all the time.  Make me new.  Help me not to be hypocritical, putting forth an image that is not consistent with what is truly happening inside of me.  Lead me away from temptation.  Help me to stand firm in the truth when it comes my way.  Be with the boys who have used these cups.  Cleanse them.  Forgive them.  Help them to overcome the temptations they have.  Help them to hear the voice of your Holy Spirit, and obey it.  Develop within them repentant hearts.  May we be a reflection of you from the inside out….

Dishes, Lesson #4

Last December, a miracle happened: My mother came to visit me in Uganda for a month.

For a full month she did my dishes.  I didn’t wash a single one.

It was heavenly.

I hate doing dishes.  I mean….I think it is because it is an endless task.  (Yet, somehow I do not mind washing other peoples’ dishes at their homes at all….mysterious of life.)

When I lived in the USA, I used to say if it can’t go in the dishwasher, then I don’t want it!  In fact, some things that most of you would not put in the dishwasher, I did.  I felt it was worth the risk.

I no longer have the luxury of a dishwasher…Unless you count the two little boys in my  home, but they really are not that great at it, as we explored in Dishes, Lesson #3.

But recently, in my hatred for doing dishes, I was reminded of something that happened a couple of years ago.

I used to work with a ministry that was dedicated to discipling young adults over a six month period.  In those six months, we had serious expectations for their growth in faith, character, and leadership.  Yet, at one point, as I was expecting so much from my students, I realized that I was not actually expecting any growth in myself.

Conviction.

At the time, I was specifically convicted in the area of patience.  I would find myself easily and often claiming to be impatient.  But as I reflected on it, I realized that such a claim is not really acceptable for a child of God.  You see, we have the Holy Spirit inside of us.  And the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness…..

I shouldn’t see it as acceptable to say I am an impatient person, and be content with that reality.  Instead, I needed to claim the work and presence of the Holy Spirit in me, and intentionally develop the fruit of patience.

So, I got serious about it.  I even downloaded (and read) a book on the topic.  I intentionally worked to overcome my complacency on the issue.

Don’t get me wrong….I don’t think that many people would offer up the word patient when asked to describe me.  However, I have made some serious progress in the area.  Or should I say that the Spirit has made some serious progress within me.

Not long ago, when looking at my growing stacks of dirty plates, silverware, saucepans, cutting boards, cups, and more, I was reminded of that journey with patience.

I decided that I needed to change my attitude of hatred towards dishes.

They weren’t going away.  I would face them every day.  Multiple times a day.

I could choose to remain hating them, and having a perpetual bad attitude for the rest of my life (ok, so sometimes I’m a little overdramatic).

Or I could decide to stop hating them and just accept them as a regular part of life.  And therefore, have less internal negativity.

So there I am, a recovering hater-of-doing-dishes.  It’s amazing the difference such a decision can make.  I’ve really seen a different attitude about it developing within me.  Admittedly, some days are harder than others…especially when I find myself doing a lot of baking.  But I regularly remind myself when I approach the sink, that I have decided not to hate it anymore.  I’ve decided to accept this simple, mundane, repetitive task.  Maybe some day I will even genuinely like it.  Maybe I will develop the habit of prayer while scrubbing each item.  I mean, sometimes I listen to a sermon while I wash them.

But as I type, it’s got me thinking a little deeper….

What other negative attitudes do I have that I need to actively work to eliminate?  Are there other things in my life, things that may be a bit more serious than dirty dishes, which need to be intentionally attacked?  Like my impatience?

Of course I know the answer is yes. Maybe I need to take some time to identify some of them and work towards a plan to get rid of them.  And in turn, develop more resilient fruit of the Spirit.

What about you….want to join me in this journey of eliminating some things?

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  Ephesians 4:22-24

 

Dishes, Lesson #3

In Dishes, Lesson #2, I mentioned that if a child washes the dishes poorly I can just rewash them.

Well, a child recently washed the dishes.

These are the ones I needed to rewash.

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I did put a few away that I determined could be considered clean.

Now, some of these dishes were not so bad.  In fact, if I hadn’t been scrutinizing each item, some may have slipped past me with their slight dirtiness.

But some were obvious.  Tomato sauce all over the bottom of a plate.  Butter still smeared on a knife.  Porridge stuck in the bottom of a cup.  Fingerprints on a measuring cup.

It’s as if he just got them wet, then set them in the drying rack.  Blindly.

After piling up the utensils that needed my attention, and as I began to wipe them with a soapy dishcloth, I was battling with frustration.  I mean, this is not his first time with this chore.  He knows how to do it properly.  He has washed dishes well in the past.

But as I rinsed now-clean plates, I had to let my frustration slip away.

How many times does God see me doing things that are not good, right, pure…clean?  How many times have I done something, even thinking it was ok, but on closer inspection would be deemed unworthy?  How many times have I left Him downright filthy messes?  (As if I am blind to the sin I’m entangled in…)

Yet, how many times has He taken me in His hands, yet again?  How many times has He pointed out the little things that He wants me to work on to be even better?  How many times has He forgiven me for my rebellion and patiently restored me?

And how many times will He continue to do it?

The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and rich in love.

The Lord is good to all;
    he has compassion on all he has made.

Psalm 145:8-9