Taming the green beast

Published 6:38 pm Tuesday, February 26, 2019

As I write, I am waiting for a house full of fellow ministers to wake up and stumble into the kitchen. I’m on a pastor’s retreat.

Before you take your own retreat into disinterest, you should know that this group is a lot more fun to be with than you might think. I am part of a virtual peer group sponsored by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. None of us live in the same state. We meet monthly by video conference, usually either discussing some ministry issue or debriefing a book we all committed to read together.

This group set a goal sometime back to try to have one in-person retreat a year so that we could get to know each other better and have extended time working on a range of issues, just like one might in any professional peer group.

A guy in the group said, “I think I can get us a house in the mountains. I have a church member with a place. If I can get it, it’d be big enough for everyone to have their own room.” Sure enough, he got it.

A person who struggled with envy would lose their struggle here. I live in my one house that I feel privileged to own. This place is instead just the vacation getaway house for a commercial builder who has evidently done a lot of building.

Upon arrival, the log-cabin style house is impressive. It sits overlooking a stunning valley below, with mountains in every direction. A large river flows by. I lost count at six bedrooms. The place looks like HGTV’s Joanna Gaines and Hillary Farr got in a wrestling match to see who would be allowed to decorate, and the family who owns this home were the winners.

There are soaring, vaulted ceilings. The kitchen has a full dining table that seats eight. There is a huge, side-by-side Sub-Zero refrigerator and a Wolf six-burner stove. The stainless steel farm sink is functional and attractive. Clubby leather chairs abound, especially near the large stone fireplace.

Honestly, I wonder if I could move in and maybe they wouldn’t notice.

I have an appreciation for the quality with which the whole house has been built and outfitted. I feel relaxed and inspired here. One thing I don’t feel is envious. Instead, I have a deep and abiding appreciation that they were generous enough to allow their pastor to host his peer group in such a nice setting. I feel amazed to get to be here for a couple of days.

Envy is something I probably could be excused for feeling, if that were truly what was going on inside of me. It would be a little understandable to be green with envy when you see something like this. Really, though, what I feel is happy for whoever has gotten to a place in life where they have earned this.

What is this emotion we can have so easily? Envy is, among other things, borne of jealousy and grief. Maybe a little insecurity thrown in. Functionally, it is the inability to be happy for someone else because of what they have and what you do not.

Envy can rob us of our joy, and can be a barrier to healthy relationships. Homes and cars are not the only potential sources of envy. Someone is happy and you are down on your luck. Someone else got the promotion, and now you are mad at the whole company. A friend got recognized in the community and you did not. Suddenly, you won’t speak to them much. You lost your spouse and your relative still has hers late in life.

I wish I knew the magic answer for never struggling with jealousy or envy. This isn’t to preach to those who wrestle with those tendencies. It is to recognize, though, that when we have our own abiding sense of satisfaction and appreciation we are better postured to let others enjoy their lives, too. When we are grateful for whatever we do have, we can better endure the inequities that life brings.

Life isn’t fair. But, my own life is better than fair. I am loved and get to give love. I have a home to come to at the end of the day, and a spouse who shows me more grace than I deserve. I’m not rich like the person who owns this mountain retreat. But in its relative simplicity, my life is deeply blessed. For today, that is enough.

THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.