Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
I just got back on Sunday afternoon from a spiritual retreat. It was a silent retreat, where one has sacred, safe spaces, and the support of the others there, to simply listen for what is stirring in our souls, and read, or contemplate sacred texts and thoughts.
It isn’t an easy thing to do. As one teacher shared with me years ago, the most frightening thing about being alone is you know who you are going to meet, and sometimes our own selves can be the most frightening person we know.
That is why it is so vital to have a relationship with the living God – with the Christ who knows human pain - and the Holy Spirit, which can be with you, holding you while you venture into your own depths, where you know you are not alone. There is a power of Grace and Compassion with you, and that is the only way we can make the spiritual journey unscathed ~ having the presence of the creator and lover of our souls, always offering us hope.
So, I was on this silent retreat, and I was journaling, as I do, and I came across so many painful feelings I have carried with me since youth. And I came to realize that there was a lot of pain from the experience of envy. Either people envious of me, or my envy of others.
Envy, as a noun is defined: a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else's possessions, qualities, or luck; and the verb is: desire to have a quality, possession, or other desirable attribute belonging to (someone else).
Wow. I thought I’d start listing my sins in this area, but realized very quickly that it really is intensely a part of so much of my life, and others! I am not alone!
The first thing many think of when we think of envy in the Bible is the story of Cain and Abel, where Cain killed his brother Abel because he was jealous that God was more pleased with the sacrifice his brother had made. But I was thinking, maybe envy goes even further back into the depths of humanity.
The story of Adam and Eve is that they were told not to eat from the tree which would give them knowledge of good and evil. And they both did anyway. There is a sense of their desire to have what God had. The most core separation that humanity has from each other – is our desire to have what others have. And just as the fruit of the tree brought knowledge of good and evil – with that came also the awareness of negative and destructive concepts such as shame and evil.
Now, one of the spiritual tools I use is a little dictionary. Even though I may know what a word means, I have always been empowered to a deeper understanding of that word, when I would look up the definition of it – and write it out and pray upon it and contemplate how that word, or those feelings play a part in my life – for good and bad. And I’ll even define words in the definition for more awareness. And another thing I’ll do is look up the antonym – the opposite of the word - and define that.
Near Antonyms of envy are: benevolence, goodwill, kindness, sympathy.
And I found another word that I had never heard of before, that could be the opposite of envy ~ it is “Mudita.” Mudita is a word from an ancient language called Sanskrit, and it means: “joy; especially sympathetic or vicarious joy; the pleasure that comes from delighting in other people's well-being.”
And, seeing as I always seem to be seeking antidotes to sin, I wanted to find out how I could catch myself when I was being envious. Now, this is so hard to do! Because, face it, don’t we all think we have really good reasons why we are unhappy about stuff we want and don’t have? These envies are hard to really accept ~ who wants to ~ so we can much easier not see the unhappiness we carry as something else, or someone else’s fault.
I just was tired of being unhappy about some things and I wanted to do something constructive about it. So I determined I would try to look at each sadness, each complaint, each negative and destructive thought or feeling and replace it with a gratitude, or a joy. One of my online sources said the cure for the verb envy is gratitude. And the opposite word of the noun envy is Mudita - Joy.
Now, this is where the scripture comes in. Paul was writing to the Thessalonians about their faith and how amazing it was and what their faith is good for. Everyone knows that bad things happen to everyone. It may feel like some more bad things happen to some people than to others, and that may be true, but the solution is not to get angry or envious, but to empower ourselves so that when “[the] sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman and there will be no escape!” If we can be empowered against the darkness, then we will be amongst those who know that we are loved, and “are not in darkness” we will know that we “are all children of light and children of the day.”
If any one of us here feels that they are in the darkness, I pray we will seek to find an antidote – to seek the light – to seek the hope ~ seek the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives and trust him as we travel into our souls looking for our depths to be filled with the sacred until we know it all over our entire bodies! That is wholeness in Christ! Having all of our depths know we are sacred and work to become new in Christ – ever new – ever growing – ever seeking integrity with the one whose we are.
And make no mistake about it – there is not one person here who is not loved intensely by God, who God does not desire to be united with fully! Everyone here is born in sacredness and that is their true home!
It may be work to find our way back into the home of sacredness, we may fall away at times, but our human calling is to know that we are beloved. That is why Paul tells the Thessalonians: “since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation . . . Therefore encourage one another and build up each other.” This is why faith communities are so vital – because we need each other to reminds us that we are sacred, that we are not alone, that we are children of the living God and precious. Church, 12 steps programs, sociologist – can all attest to the truth that we need to find our way to each other, to not be envious – but to take joy in each other, to seek gratitude in what we have because right now, in this moment – we can have the love and forgiveness, the grace and the compassion of God and right now in this moment it is enough! YOU are enough, right now. You really are. Amen