Sunday, June 27, 2010

A part of me I don't like

I've never thought of myself as covetous person. I've been aware of my struggles with sins "further up the list" - especially in light of Jesus' warning in Matt 5:21-32 - but coveting? I knew the commandment was there, but never thought it applied much to me.

Then again, I suppose fish don't know they're wet.

I've been getting a lesson recently in my own pettiness and covetousness thanks to reconnecting with a high school friend through a social networking site. We don't interact much, but she uses her presence there mostly as a personal blog, with lengthy posts about her life and circumstances. Through these posts I learned that shortly after high school she married a man who worked for an auto company. They raised three children, and he is now retired.


I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to pay for next month. I have a paltry retirement fund into which I haven't been able to put a cent in over two years. I don't know if I'm ever going to be able to retire, and here one of my high school classmates ALREADY IS! On top of that, one of the hobbies she and her husband enjoy is taking cruises. That's right - cruises on liners to places like the Caribbean and Alaska and Spain. They do at least two of these a year, and sometimes more if they catch a good deal. I've never been on a cruise, and consider myself lucky if someone asks me out for a ride on their boat.

How does she rate? That's what the covetous part of me growls - that covetous part that I wasn't aware of.

Of course, her posts also intimate that she has experienced a good deal of relational turmoil in her life. She's still happily married, but apparently there have been problems with the children, and painful rifts with siblings and cousins.

Ahh, so that's it! She might be retired and enjoying ocean cruises, but she's paying for it with relational pain of the sort I haven't had! At least that's how the covetous Roger reasons, with an outlook that would do credit to an author of Greek tragedies. The great cosmic pan-scales will be balanced, so though she's retired while I have to work for the living into the foreseeable future, she's having to PAY for that!

Pretty ugly stuff, eh?

Of course, I don't really wish any of that on her. She's an old friend and sister in Christ, and I pray that her family relationships heal and bring her no more pain. What I really want, when I give the Redeemed Roger a chance, is that she enjoy the blessings of the life God has for her - the retirement, the cruises, the seemingly good relationship with her husband, and God's grace in the places which aren't what they should be. I don't want her to suffer as some kind of metaphysical payment for marrying a guy who got a retirement package.

So I guess I'm not as free from covetousness as I thought. In fact, it seems I'm shot through with it, waiting just below the surface, waiting to emerge in the proper circumstances. I covet her early retirement and ocean cruises, and it's astonishing how quickly that covetousness eclipses all the blessings God has given me. When I'm coveting, I don't think about the wonderful Stratford weeks that God has given us, or the generosity of friends, or the blessing of our children. I don't even think about the blessings in Heaven that I consciously and deliberately chose to build up, over blessings on this earth. I just think about what I don't have. And the next step beyond that is envy - the part that would gloat if she had to post "my husband's retirement has been impacted by changes in the auto industry, and it looks like he'll have to go back to work." It shames me to admit that there is part of me that would be gratified to see that.

Clearly, I need a lot more work. I don't want those covetous and envious parts. I want all of me to be generous and rejoicing when good happens to others. How can I reflect Christ to the world if I'm full of covetousness and envy?


Theresa said...

How do I say this? We do not live a life of perfection here on earth. The greatest examples of our Christian faith frequently wrote of their weaknesses and their struggle to eradicate selfishness and vanity and pride from their lives. I've heard it said that when we do succeed in fully knowing, loving and serving God as He desired at our creation, then He takes us home to be with Him. If so, then every day that we wake up still here means that we have another lesson to learn. And it also means we have another chance to get it right!

Although Christ Himself did not fall, the humility we display in acknowledging and repenting and atoning for our sins reflects His total surrender to the Father's will. In our determination to weed out the flaws in our hearts, we show the world a different kind of dignity, a higher and nobler purpose.

Although it's quite unsettling to discover a deep-seated vice which hitherto had seemed inapplicable, we should always rejoice in the mercy of God that He let us see it in time to repent of it.

Joan Grabowski said...

RETIRED? Love it! Thank you for this, Roger.

I've often wondered whether or not the good fathers might consider making public a list of sins they hear confessed -- no names, of course -- so I might know where I stack up! In any case, thank you for your humble honesty and sharing your ponderings. Indeed, this life is an imperfect journey. May we seek to continue to bring these imperfections out of the darkness and into God's marvelous light for healing and redemption. Blessings to you POTW!