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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