April 17, 2021
I get REALLY jealous. Not so green with envy that it changes my behavior and alters my personality (I hope), but I struggle with a kind of jealousy that is mostly silent. Sometimes, it’s the kind of jealousy that motivates me to do tremendous things. Sometimes it makes me want to bury myself on an island where the dragons live.
I follow two remarkable people. They inspire me in such a healthy way. I am currently learning from a wedding photographer named Katelyn James. She’s a lot like me: she loves Jesus, loves beautiful things, loves serving people, and loves her stillborn son so much that she shares his name and story quite frequently. I am in AWE of her. She has, throughout this Covid season, inspired me to push, push, push to be a better photographer. I’ve taken some of her courses and poured myself into learning more. I want to know how she’s become successful and why she’s so popular with her clients. I don’t want to BE her, but I want to love and serve like Katelyn.
I also follow a woman named Christy Wright. She’s an entrepreneur and a mom. This woman is DEDCIATED to helping other women build their small businesses. She wants us to know that there are far better ways to be more confident, more ways to stay focused and intentional, and ways to THRIVE not just in business but in life. ALL while doing it debt free! She’s one of Dave Ramsey’s co-workers and inspiring personalities. Christy has won my heart with her humble story.
And I’m jealous of her, too.
Why? It’s not just because Katelyn is living the life of her dreams. It isn’t even because Christy gets to spend SO much time with Dave Ramsey (I’m such a nerd). No, it has far more to do with the fact that in this season of Covid lockdowns and uncertainty, I feel STUCK. It’s difficult not looking at myself and feeling trapped by circumstances. I look at Katelyn and Christy. I want to be where they are: successful and changing the lives of the people they feel called to serve. They are doing it all with new babies in their arms. I long to be where it’s taken them YEARS to get to. I’m JEALOUS!
It’s SO easy to relate to this, isn’t it? How many blog posts have you read by individuals encouraging us not to fall into the trap of comparison? Instagram and Facebook can suck the life right out of you. Both Katelyn and Christy talk about this constantly! Comparison really DOES breed jealousy. It can make ourselves feel far less superior and far less capable of doing what we THINK we’ve been called to do. Sometimes, we question even THAT journey! It makes us believe that God can NOT use us the way he uses others. It’s draining! And it is NOT what He wants for us!
In some ways, this kind of jealousy is manageable for me. I actually have a lot of control over it. My daily choices can truly, and I mean TRULY, guard and protect me from the trap of disillusioned comparison. It takes courage, patience, grace, and a whole lot of forgiveness to allow myself the freedom to KNOW that I am absolutely LOVED and priceless. Regardless of where I am or what I do. And even then, when I can’t even get myself to believe that truth, I remember that I am powerless to undo what God has already proclaimed: that HE is the potter and that I am the work of His hands. Not the other way around.
It’s SO good to remember that, right? I feel better, right?
Bring on the tears. I sometimes wear myself out, thrashing around in my heart trying to remember those beautiful truths on a daily basis. I get SO caught up in ME making ME feel good that it gets tricky. I’m trying to manage my insecurities the “easy” way by ignoring the bigger issue: true healing does not come from me! It doesn’t matter if it’s a simple twinge of jealousy over someone else’s nicer house or my BIGGEST, REALEST problem: jealousy that comes from trauma. Envy that comes from life-altering circumstances that I have absolutely no control over.
That’s right. Here it is. How do I deal with jealousy that I CANNOT control?
I was driving around town the other day, and I started thinking about these things. I don’t often recall everything that triggers my grief, but I do sometimes reflect on the things that stir it up. Driving around, I was pondering our situation: we’ve lost so many babies and I’m now pregnant again. I’m SO CLOSE to holding a baby in my arms once more.
It baffles me that after all these months it’s STILL difficult to see someone post about their pregnancy. Why does it sting so much to witness someone else’s baby joy? Am I insane for wanting to turn my face away, to click out of the Facebook page, to turn to something else whenever I see yet another friend or family member or acquaintance announce their pregnancy or birth? I feel CRAZY for feeling jealous about it! And yet, I feel like I have no control over how the innermost part of my heart cries out in the same way it did when I was grieving my own empty arms! It feels the SAME WAY!
What’s so scary about this kind of jealousy for me is that I can see how it truly has the power to impact relationships. We have close friends who always seems to get pregnant the same time we do. We’ve lost so many and they’ve never lost one. It STINGS. But, we love them so much. I don’t want to feel the way I do when I see another one of their baby photos, even to this day. I just do! It’s involuntary, and it brings back so many memories. For me, there is no explanation for it other than grief. It kills me, because I’d choose something else entirely if I could. But, we can’t always choose our circumstances. Praise JESUS none of this has effected our friendship, and we love them more than ever today!
I have another dear friend. After I lost Alexander, I remember the moment she told me she was pregnant again. I don’t actually remember feeling jealous about this at all (because I don’t have trauma associated with her), but I remember her tears. She told me she felt so guilty in light of our circumstances. I was in awe that her heart anticipated and understood that it’s HARD to watch others get pregnant while managing loss. It made me love her more. And it makes me understand at a far deeper level that we ALL fear pain and misery.
And yes, sometimes I fear that this certain, heart-breaking jealousy will never go away.
I am fast beginning to realize that the losses we’ve had has indelibly left a permeant scar in our lives and on our hearts. Having three healthy children doesn’t change the fact that there are 11 hearts stamped on this fragile human being that I call Me. I embrace the grief. But, I am understanding now, as I get closer to being done with this phase of my life, that this kind of jealousy, the kind that makes my heart sting in the most peculiar and familiar way, must be approached differently than the kind of jealousy that can be dealt with by turning off Instagram or unfollowing a celebrity.
This kind of jealousy for me (it’s different for ALL OF US!!) stems from the most honest, raw place. I can pretend to have a lot of control, but I don’t have a lot of control over the realest part of me: the most vulnerable place where pain likes to live. THIS kind of jealousy must be dealt with by, and ONLY by, the most tender of Physicians.
Why? I am completely, utterly helpless and in need of intimate healing.
I absolutely love the imagery that C. S. Lewis. uses when he describes the Christ-like lion Aslan in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” The boy Eustace Scrubb has turned into a dragon because of his greed. There is absolutely NO way to save himself! He is terrified of being left behind and forgotten. Aslan carefully and painfully peels away layer after layer of dragon skin as he heals and redeems Eustace, and it STINGS! But, the boy is now and forever changed. This picture means SO much to me, because I know how much this hurts. This imagery also thrills me because I know what freedom there is on the other side of submission.
We can easily sit here all day and compare everything. It’s not hard to compare “big” and “little” losses, intense and subtle jealousies, raw and superficial fears. It’s what we humans do best, I think. But, there is no comparing pain with pain. You might be struggling with jealousies that have NOTHING to do with babies! Maybe you are struggling to be content with the possessions you have, or the job you work at, or the family you’re raising. You may or may not be dealing with trauma! But the TRUTH is this: I and probably all of us will likely STING all of our days.
This is the world we live in. It will always hurt a little for me to see other women having babies. It’s my trauma, but I sadly share this reality with many other women who understand what I mean. You may always sting from other triggers. We might ALWAYS fight the battle of jealousy! It might even be the unavoidable reality of grief that will always force us to relive those horrible moments.
Another way to look at it is this: these painful scars remind us on a regular basis what it FEELS like to hurt in those particular circumstances. I never want to be void of compassion or empathy in the area of pregnancy and infant loss again. Why? Because it happens SO OFTEN to so many people, and I want people to know that they are not alone. How can I truly be present in their pain if my own pain is erased from my memory?
Even more so, the Bible tells us this:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 1 Corinthians 1:3 – 4
“But Sarah, I don’t want to feel this way forever!! This is miserable!!”
Oh, sweet one. I agree. It IS AWFUL sometimes!! Please remember that God himself does not wish this for us, either. The beautiful truth is that our pain, our jealousy, will not live forever like we will. There is an end in sight, and I DELIGHT that the promises of the glorious End are real!
How will the Great Physician ultimately heal this part of us? Will He tend and nurse the parts we despise about ourselves the most? How will He heal relationships that envy has destroyed? He’ll do it very, very carefully with a lick of His giant tongue and with a purr in His mighty throat and with paws bigger than your face. And someday, He will fly us away from the island of dragons for all eternity where jealousy and grief and trauma will never exist.
Because He loves us that much.
“Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.” Jeremiah 17:14