I realise this may be an overtly personal post but its the culmination of some thoughts I've had circulating within my head for a wee while now... please bear with me.
I had an epiphany of sorts recently... I found, or at least I think I found, the root to some of the dissatisfaction that I have felt to date.
Two things have been attacking me of late_ envy and insecurity_ and I want to consider them for a moment or two.
First things first... I am the enviable position of being surrounded by people to envy. I realise that may sound oxymoronic but its true... I greatly appreciate the people I am surrounded with but the downside of being surrounded by so many great and wonderful people is that I envy what they have.
This isn't an envy of material things... it used to be... I used to get hung up about having the “right” things but then got to a point where I could afford/obtain what I determine to be said things.
I started writing this post on a brand-spanking-new MacBookPro... whilst listening to tunes on a 5th gen iPod and checking tweets on my iPhone 3g... sat in Starbucks with a tall Sumatran (coffee not person) on my lunch hour from a well paid job.
I'm now back home... where I have a wonderful diy-obsessed wife, 2 fab Jonas Brothers-obsessed we'ans and a robust family/friend network (you are where you were).
You are probably wondering what I have to be envious of... but the thing is... this is where the lie comes in.
I am not dissatisfied with the above... by no means. I am dissatisfied with me.
I am surrounded by wonderfully talented and creative people: musicians... visual artists... photographers... bloggers... podcasters... designers... theologians and philosophers... activists and carers... readers... contemplatives... and I want to be like you all.
Consider the church tradition to which I subscribe: the Salvation Army. What was once a powerful movement of the Holy Spirit has become a church that over emphasises music... and their particularly unique and insular form of music (brass bands)... to the detriment of everything else. Not only do we have a clergy/laity split... we have a bando/laity split too. I am surrounded by musically talented folk... really gifted folk... and I have nothing to contribute. I am the heretic... the prophet who doesn't do music.
Do you know how frustrating it is for someone who has a deep love of music and has no musical talent whatsoever..? Or someone with a deep love of thoughtful design... but has no talent in that area either?
I am envious... I want to be like you all.
I realised this when I tried to paint a picture and the finished picture was ruined in a freak accident that involved a moving toilet and a model sail boat. Fortunately Miriam, who was sitting on said moving toilet seat, wasn't hurt in the accident... but my painting suffered a stab wound that would make a Glaswegian ned proud... though it is doubtful that any Glaswegian ned has been stabbed with a model boat's main mast... but then, it is Glasgow.
I was painfully aware that for me to recreate the painting would involve a great deal of angst and effort because I'm not naturally gifted as a painter... and arguably very little talent.
As I realised this... I started to question what I am actually gifted at. It is so hard for me to see myself objectively. I only see myself through subjective envy-coloured lens. I secretly define myself by what I can't do... or in terms of comparison - “i'm not as good at (x) than (y)”.
As a result of this envy... I am starting to believe the second lie... that I have nothing to offer... or what I have to offer isn't up there with what others can offer. This is feeding my current insecurity... that I ride on the coat-tails of others... that I am, at best, mediocre and ordinary.
Before you click on the “comments” button and tell me your thoughts... please let me finish... this isn't a cry for help nor is it an attempt to bolster my ego.
I acknowledge both lies. I am working to understand what I am good at... and working to get better at that. I am focussing less on others.... on trying to do everything... trying to be like (x) or (y)... and aiming to be more specific about what I do.... about being the best “me” I can be... being unique. I am also considering what I feed on... what I consume... to ensure it builds me up without perpetuating these lies.
I have something to offer. You all have something to offer. Its maybe easier for you... if you are a musician... a visual artist... a photographer... a blogger... a podcaster... a designer... a theologian and a philosopher... an activist and a carer... you know what you can offer. However, for folks like me... this will take more thought, introspection and intention... as well as a huge chunk of prayer and consideration of where God wants me to be.
The key is to acknowledge the lie of envy and to stare-down the lie of insecurity.
You see... I believe this lie has formed the heresy of clergy/laity split – the idea that only some people are worthy of coming close to God. We are all capable of coming into the presence of God – we do not need a Priest to do it for us... neither do we need to “set apart” people for God's work because we are ALL on a mission... we all have our role to play.
There is no creative/”laity” split either. The creator God has given us all a sense of His creative spirit... we all have our “thing” and just need to work out what that “thing” is. There are very few people who are good at everything they do.
I am secure in my faith too... because I wholeheartedly believe Jesus came for everyone... not some exclusive subset of people. God doesn't just love musicians... visual artists... photographers... bloggers... podcasters... designers... theologians and philosophers... activists and carers... readers... contemplatives... to the detriment of the rest of us. Neither does he only love white, American, middle-class, heterosexual, evangelical Christians.
God loves us for who we are (even white, American, middle-class, heterosexual, evangelical Christians) and for what we have to offer... in fact, God loves us despite who we are... sees beyond it and acknowledges what we truly have to offer... the stuff buried down deep by envy, insecurity & our addictions.
The point of this post is not to seek pity or, as I said earlier, to bolster my ego... but to demonstrate that everybody hurts... everybody suffers from the lies told to them... and that just because we look fine doesn't mean we are fine. The point is whether or not we choose to accept the lies told. I, for one, no longer do.