My husband, James, and I live in Des Moines. When we first got engaged, we agreed that instead of paying a landlord each month to rent an apartment, we wanted to make an investment and buy a house. I know that not everyone who desires to do the same thing can, so believe me, we realized how blessed we were.
James had been saving some money for a down payment. We looked at three houses and found the one: a small, green bungalow that was exactly a half-mile down the street from some of our closest friends. Thanks to my awesome realtor sister, we were able to purchase our first home.
We have lived in our small green house for over three-and-a-half years now. It has been a fun adventure to select paint colors, furniture and other odds and ends to make it feel like home. It is truly one of my favorite places in the whole world. Our sanctuary, our safe place.
Our backyard, however, is a completely different story. Because we live in the city, we do not boast a large amount of land (oh, some day!). We have a small front yard and a small, mostly fenced in, backyard. Our front yard is nice, mainly because outsiders can see it. But our backyard, wowza. Let’s just say our dogs are the only ones who enjoy it.
It’s not that we don’t care or don’t want our yard to be nice. In fact, we would love to have it be a peaceful place where we can enjoy nature and entertain guests. We just don’t have time to maintain it. Between work, ministry, friends, and other activities in life, our yard isn’t our top priority.
(Part of our actual backyard. And don’t worry about the dog in the corner. She’s not dead. Just rolling around, livin’ the life.)
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “the grass is always greener on the other side.” That it always seems like someone has it better than you. In our case, we feel that way literally about other people’s grass. They have a nicer yard than us. They must be better, cooler, more responsible people. Therefore, we are lesser, meaner, lamer people for having an awful backyard. I know that isn’t true, but you get my point. When we compare our situation to someone else’s, theirs will always look better. Why? Because we’ve only seen a glimpse of it.
Your friend seems to have the perfect job. She is always happy, has great co-workers and a supportive boss. Plus, she gets paid twice as much as you and always seems to have lots of vacation time. Meanwhile, you’re stressed, overworked and underappreciated. What you don’t see are the countless hours your friend has put into her job. You don’t see the missed dance recitals or arguments with her husband. You don’t see the stress because she might be hiding it under all those vacation photos.
I’m not saying everyone who is successful is miserable. What I am saying is that things aren’t always what they seem. It’s the heart that is the issue. When we think that someone has it better than us, when we choose to treat them differently because of it; that’s a heart issue. It’s called jealousy. Galatians 5:20 lists different “fruits” of our sinful, messed up nature— one of them being jealousy. It’s innate, part of the human DNA. We were born with a jealous heart.
So, what do we do about it? We have two options: We can accept our fallen human state and claim that it is out of our control (although I feel that won’t get you very far) or we can see what God’s Word says about it.
“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.“ -Proverbs 14:30, NIV (biblehub.com).
Instead of living in a bone-rotting way of thinking, we can choose peace. The opposite of jealousy is peace. Peace is being content with what you have. It’s knowing that even if someone seems better off than you, that God does not love you any less. Peace is celebrating other people’s victories with the same enthusiasm as you would your own. Peace is a confidence that your life is just as valuable as anyone else’s. It has nothing to do with stuff, promotions, kids, cars, houses or even landscaping. It has everything to do with knowing that God has placed you in this very moment, with these very people for a very special purpose.
As a lifelong jealousy sufferer, this gives me hope. To know that I do not have to rot away. I do not have to rot my relationships over jealousy. I do not have to rot ministry opportunities or jobs or time with friends because I am jealous of others. I can enjoy life freely with God. I do so because of the peace of God that is in the core of my being.
They also say that “grass is greenest where you water it”. Unlike we did with our yard, when we make a pure heart before God our top priority, He will make it come alive again. He will begin to cultivate, till, plant, root, grow and bloom things in your life that you never thought possible. But it must be our focus. If not, it will get overtaken by the cares, worries and pressures of this world. By focusing our attentions and efforts on growing our relationship with God, we will not be distracted— or even enticed— by what others have. We will only long for what God has.
I doubt my backyard will ever be on the cover of HGTV magazine. I will never be the smartest, prettiest or coolest person. But I can be a person who lives at peace with myself and with the God of the Universe. That seems a better deal than some green grass.