You know you’re in a bad place when someone has written a children’s book about what you are feeling. That awful moment when you are standing in Barnes and Noble watching kids run around looking for their favorite character, and you pick up the latest Elephant and Piggie because you like Mo Willems, and the whole book is about you and your friends. And you’re 35.
Talk about the crosses you bear, mine is Jealousy with a big ole capital J. I used to fight against it when I was a kid. You can be my second best friend and I will be your third best friend and Samantha can be my third best friend, but if you want to trade then I can be your second best friend and you can be my first best friend. Even when you get to college, and you’re sitting in your room, and you can hear something happening down the hall and you just aren’t part of it and you don’t have the nerve to step out of your room.
Turns out that kind of stuff doesn’t go away. Why did that couple not invite us to go ice-skating with them as well? Why didn’t my kid get an invitation to that birthday party? Why didn’t I get an invitation to that kid’s birthday party? Why aren’t I in that small group? Why can’t I go to lunch with you after church?
That’s no way to live, and it’s not what we’re called to.
Luke 1: 39-45 (ESV)
39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be[g] a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
Last year I spent a lot of time focused on these six verses, on Mary and Elizabeth’s time together, thanks in part to Sophie Hudson’s excellent book Giddy Up Eunice. What I keep coming back to, what I can’t take my eyes from, is Elizabeth’s joy for Mary.
Elizabeth had been waiting decades to have a child. She had faced decades of scorn, decades of being left out, of being uninvited. Yet here comes her cousin Mary, not even married yet, barely even a woman, and she is pregnant. Not on my watch sister, turn your behind around, march straight back to where you came from. This is my time. I’m pregnant now. I get to glow and have people fuss over me, I get to dream about my baby, I get to rub my belly. You with your young skin and your full belly and your messiah in the oven, turn right around and leave. I need to take a nap, and I get to do that now because THIS IS MY TIME.
That’s how we’d react right? After watching all of our friends get pregnant, seeing their kids start school, and then that newlywed with the shiny Kitchenaid mixer comes in and is pregnant too, and so excited because you get to do this together. You want to be happy for her, but you also want her to find another church to go to.
But it’s not just John in Elizabeth’s belly that’s happy. It’s not just the one in the dessert jumping for joy at the presence of the one whose coming was foretold.
Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Not for one second did it cross Elizabeth’s mind to welcome her cousin with anything but joy. Even beyond joy, to feel such pleasure that Mary would choose to come alongside her in this. Elizabeth was so confident in herself and whose she was. So confident in who her son was, and knew so well the God that she worshipped. There was nothing Mary could do, or say, or be that would diminish what Elizabeth was and was expecting.
I tend to think in finite terms. If someone gets a book published that’s less chance of mine getting published. If three of my friends get pregnant then I’m not going to be able to. If none of my friends have a miscarriage, it means I’m going to,… if I manage to get pregnant. She got her dream job, so I can’t have mine. She got the haircut I wanted, so of course it won’t look any good on me.
This is not how God works.
There is not a finite supply of God. His blessings do not run out when those around you receive them. 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV) says that God is able to bless you abundantly. Ephesians 3:20 (ESV) says Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. Our God is an immeasurable God. He is greater. He is better. He is stronger. He is more able than anything we can imagine.
It’s not God who tells us that their more equals less for us.
John 10:10 (NKJV) The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
God tells us more, the thief tells us no way. God calls us home, the thief tells us there’s no space. God calls us child, the thief tells us insignificant.
I have battled with this thief for years, no more so than since having children. Those un-received party invitations burn with a heat I never knew in all my years of single jealousy. So I pray, and I read scripture over myself like an ointment, and I confess, and I confront, and I lay myself bare before the women with whom I struggle, who turn back and say “Me too, I thought I was the only one.” And still I struggle.
But standing there, in that book store, reading a children’s story, seeing a beloved author trying to teach children how to not worry, how to share and how to bless one another, the thief’s hold was broken. And now, though I may have my times of weakness, though I may feel that jealousy creep back in to hold on to me once more, now I can laugh in his face. Because if they can write a children’s book about it, this grown up woman can certainly kick it to the curb.