Envy From Head To Toe

By: Natalie Mendes

I remember them clearly: the popular girls. Head to toe in their pearly white Jack Purcells, Abercrombie jeans, and radiant, clear skin, they were the very picture of prepubescent perfection. Looking down at my worn in and scuffed up Vans, catching a glimpse of my pimply complexion, I felt about as uncool as I could get, and I hated them for it.

It is called envy, or the pain we feel when we perceive that someone possesses some object, quality, or status we do not possess (Pippert, A Heart For God). And envy is out to first blacken our hearts, cause them to forget God, and finally turn them against others. Envy sure had a hold of my teenage heart.

I obsessed over how those girls got such a special status, and I didn’t. “Why God?” I would cry as I buried my head in my pillow, my mom sitting at my bedside confounded by the strength of my teenage emotions. If I was loved by God, why did I feel so sad? If I was loved by God, why wasn’t my skin perfect? I did everything I could to be like them, to possess that status I envied. In short, I became a wannabe. Jack Purcells topped my Christmas list each year as my heart slowly smoldered in envy.

As many times in the Christian life, the shift was a slow and gradual one. I had no shining epiphany or midnight vision. I started reading the Bible for myself, and the Holy Spirit revealed truth to me. I learned that God loved the entire world, made humankind in His image, and delighted in my creation. I read Psalm 139 over and over again:

“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”
(Psalm 139:13-16)

I realized that every time I felt envy for a particular girl at school, I was hurting one of God’s daughters, created in His image and formed by His hands. At the same time, I learned that this was true of me too; that God had known me before the beginnings of the earth and had delicately formed my being. I realized that every time I hated myself as a result of my envy, I was telling God He created me wrong, and who was I to do that? I learned compassion, which is loving others as we love ourselves, because I started seeing others through God’s eyes.

I still struggle with envy from time to time, depending on the vacation photos or career promotion I see on social media. I don’t expect to ever be perfect. I don’t know how those girls kept their Jack Purcells so white and clean, or why I was never one of them. But I do know that I am created and loved by God and given gifts that reflect His character and glory. Knowing this, I can fully appreciate the beauty, vibrance, and intelligence of God as I see those qualities reflected in the people around me.

How have you struggled with envy? In what ways has it entangled your heart? Be encouraged knowing that as a created and beloved child of God, He delights in the gifts, talents, and abilities He’s given to you and others. And that is something worth celebrating above all else.

 

This blog is a part of our Live Into Who You Are series where we share personal reflections of how the Holy Spirit redeems a heart. Traditional vice and virtue pairings are used to help share and structure these reflections. Read more posts here.