So Jealous

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved babies. As a child I begged God to make my dolls come to life and fantasized about one day having a big family. So when I was five-years-old and learned Mom was going to have a real live baby, I was thrilled. Although I wasn’t allowed to name him, my parents told me he would be “my” baby brother, a dream come true.

Tommy and MargaretSometimes Mom let me feed him or hold him, but she never let him out of her sight. It didn’t take long to figure out he wasn’t really “mine”, and eventually I sensed he had become more important than I was. The camera clicked only in his direction, and when company came, it was all about the new baby.

Gradually, all the good parts of having a baby (like letting me own him) were eliminated, and the bad parts (like everyone ignoring me) increased. Feeling set aside, I became very jealous.

Jealousy is hideous. It produces intolerance, suspicion, and bitterness, but worst of all, it always grows. As little Tommy grew, so did my jealousy. By the time he was a pre-schooler, I teased him continually, which required steady reprimanding from both parents and filled our home with friction.

It wasn’t until my friends became more important than pestering a little brother that my jealousy slowly subsided. I took an honest look at young Tom and saw he actually had a few good points. And by the time I went off to college, I missed him a great deal. When he eventually approached me with questions about dating, I was honored.

In recent years I’ve studied what God thinks of jealousy, and it’s not good. Although he has the right to be jealous over people because we all belong to him, the rest of us put ourselves on several very condemning lists when we’re jealous.

For starters, God equates jealousy with drunkenness, sexual immorality, wickedness and corruption. Later he adds idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, rage and discord as jealousy’s bedfellows. Another list cites slander, anger, quarreling and arrogance. None of that is company I want to keep.

Tom and MargToday Tom is absolutely dear to me, a champion brother for whom I have nothing but respect and gratitude. When I see how close I came to letting jealousy destroy this valuable relationship, I’m overwhelmed with God’s grace (and Tom’s) in letting me off the hook. And, no thanks to me, the Lord protected and preserved our sibling bond through that ugly storm.

Amazingly Tom has never retaliated for my jealous misbehavior… unless of course he’s got that scheduled for next week.

“Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties or drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and… jealousy.(Romans 13:13)

You never know…

Baby MomMom was born in 1912. Arriving several weeks prematurely, she was the fourth baby in her family. Because she was tiny, the doctor told her parents, “Don’t give her a name. She’s not going to make it, so you don’t want to get too attached.”

But Mom fooled everybody; she lived to be 92. You just never know…

Nelson at 9 monthsOur firstborn nearly died at nine months with a case of croup we thought was just laryngitis. When he couldn’t sleep for all the coughing, we called the doctor, who sent us to the hospital. En route, the baby went limp, his eyes rolled back, and we were terrified.

Thanks to quick, discerning doctors, he lived, and after four days in the hospital, he slowly recuperated. When it was all over, Nate and I fell apart, realizing how close we’d come to losing our little guy. You just never know…

Fast forward to 2009, when Nate and I relocated to Michigan. His plan had been to continue full time lawyering for two more years, then gradually scale back. But “untimely” cancer arrived, and 42 days later, our plans were shelved. Nate died “ahead of schedule” at 64. We hadn’t planned on that, but you just never know…

Celebrating lifeLast February my sister Mary learned that after 70 healthy years, she, too, was slated to tangle with cancer. Since then it’s been 1 major surgery, a couple of minor ones, and 3 months of chemo. We’re all hoping she’ll live to be an old lady, and so far so good. But as she says, you never know…

None of us ever knows. The biblical Methuselah lived to be 969 years old, but King David’s baby died as a newborn.  When we were born, God didn’t promise old age, yet we find ourselves angry when someone is taken “before their time.” If they’ve died, though, it was their time. We can’t know ahead, because God doesn’t tell.

???????????????????????????????The Bible describes long life as a blessing, and everyone seems to want it. Mom was thankful for her long life and lived each day vigorously, but in her last years she often said, “Old age isn’t for sissies.” Troubles of all kinds pile high on the elderly, weighing them down with woe, and she was no exception. In order for anyone to handle those burdensome days, great stores of wisdom and godliness are a prerequisite. So when we wish for longevity, we’re signing up for the toughest challenge of our lives.

You just never know…    But then maybe it’s better that way.

”No man has power over the wind to contain it; so no one has power over the day of his death.” (Ecclesiastes 8:8)

Praising and Praying with Mary

  1. I’m thankful nausea continues to be mild.
  2. And my new feeding tube, a different system than the old one, feels much better. PTL!

Loud Objections

Last night at about 3:30 am, I was woken up by ear-splitting screeching coming from the woods behind our cottage. In my stupor I couldn’t decide if it was human or not, but as it continued for nearly a minute, I determined it was an animal. I found myself thinking, “Hurry up! Finish it off!” Whatever it was, it was in agony.

OwlToday I’ve tried not to envision what might have been happening out there in the dark. Was it an owl having dinner at the expense of a rabbit?

Before sin existed, every person and animal got along. One day that’ll be true again. In the mean time, much of what happens in our fallen world is unpleasant. Some of it is downright gruesome, like last night’s attack. God could have protected that poor animal and provided food for its foe another way, but he didn’t.

Even though humans aren’t attacked as food, we sometimes (like the animal being attacked) come to a place of shrill screaming. Our lives ebb and flow, dipping in and out of negatives and positives. Some of it has to do with the laws of nature just as the attack in the woods did: hurricanes, viruses, drug addictions, floods. And cancer. The labels are different for each of us, but none of us is exempt from situations that make us want to scream.

Although we often rail against circumstances, what’s rumbling beneath our objections is probably anger at God. Wise counselors say, “Go ahead and yell at him. He can take it.”

But should he have to? If we’re trying to lead godly lives, our response to the negatives ought to be, “Yes, I hate this, but because of God, I know good stuff will come from it.”

Our family has seen the truth of that repeated again and again as a result of Nate’s cancer and now Mary’s. For one thing, all of us are less likely to take the others for granted or to assume, “Life will always be the way it is today.” We’ve become aware, in a poignant way, that everyone’s hold on life is fragile. A second positive is that we’re thanking God continually for the years before cancer. As a result of living in a world that includes trouble, these two good things are now ours.

None of us would appreciate happy times if there were no bad ones. So we learn to endure, experiencing agony and uttering a shrill scream now and then, but bearing up under the misery, because at the end of it, we know there are blessings that can’t be gained any other way

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.” (Romans 5:3)