I sat down last week to finish writing brick #3, but kept getting a nagging feeling in my heart like God wanted to show me something different than what I was writing. As the week progressed my heart began to grow restless…really restless. What was it that God was trying to reveal to me? A question came to my mind that wouldn’t leave: why are we women, who are generally social people, sabotaging our relationships with each other? Why do we sabotage even the potential for a friendship with another woman? And, why does it feel like it’s so much worse inside the church?
It wasn’t until I sat down to read the book “The Good and Beautiful God” by James Bryan Smith that I started to get it. The writer was talking about God as our Father, and referencing the Lord’s Prayer. The words at the start of the prayer “Our Father” were when God got real with me. When we pray “our Father”, we mean “our”, as in us. As in my Father and yours. He’s not just my Father, he’s yours too. That makes us sisters. Sisters fight.
Growing up with a younger brother I know all about sibling rivalry. And what was it all about? Winning the spot of the “favourite kid” with our parents. We threw each other under the bus all the time! It was to make the other one look bad, and ourself look good. From that it grew into competition anywhere we could find it.
I quickly flipped to Genesis 4 to see the story of Cain and Abel, the first of many places in the bible where we see sibling rivalry. Notice it’s only four whole chapters in before we see this?
2…Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
(vs 2-8 NIV)
What struck me was that they were not fighting for their earthly father’s approval, but for God’s! Cain thinks he’s doing right by bringing God a gift, then Abel brings the best of his best to God (typical sibling always trying to one up the other, hey?!), and God takes Abel’s not Cain’s gift. God is clear of what he wants Cain to do to (bring him the best of the best of his field), but Cain’s pride is hurt. He is jealous of the approval Abel gains from God.
So what am I getting at and why do I share this?
God showed me an ugly corner of my heart this week. He showed me the “Cain corner” of my heart. It keeps me from building meaningful relationships with women. If I say I don’t get along with anyone and I haven’t been able to connect, it may very well be one hundred percent on me. No one has tripped me walking down the aisle to my seat. No one has spit in my face, or called me names, or given me any reason to think they don’t like me, or that I shouldn’t like them. But it doesn’t matter, I’ve already decided we aren’t going to be friends. And what’s worse, is that I feel this way far more inside the church than out. I believe it’s because inside the church body, the perceived coveted “prize” is much greater than outside that body. It’s the attention and approval of the King of Kings we seek.
It’s about to get real ugly here for a minute though while I air out my dirty laundry, so stay with me…
When I look at women I assume one of two things:
- She isn’t the type of person God would approve of, and thus it makes me better and I feel I have somehow “won” God’s approval. Maybe it’s the way she dresses, the way she parents, her job, her understanding of the bible. Whatever it is I’ve somehow declared her “not good enough” for my Father.
- She is absolutely the type of woman God wants every woman to be, and I am not living up to that standard, thus I am jealous of the favour she has “won”.
Either way you look at it, it doesn’t end well, and neither of those thoughts make for long lasting friendships. I’ve sabotaged a potential friendship over my own prideful misconceptions. It can even happen in our already existing friendships. Suddenly my friend gets what I perceive to be a “promotion” (maybe she took on a new roll in a church, or is going on a mission trip I wanted to be on, or gets poured out a blessing), and either consciously or subconsciously I feel she did something right to get noticed by our Father. I don’t want to cheer her on, I want to be pouty that our Father chose her over me, and I suddenly feel spiteful with my sister.
It’s pretty icky, hey?! It’s downright juvenile on my part. I realized this after I saw it spelled out. There’s really no one to blame but myself for any weak relationships that I have or haven’t formed. The odd time someone gives a reason for hurt to have transpired, but if I really think about it with honesty that’s not the norm, that’s the exception.
I sat with this for awhile, feeling disgusted about what I had deep inside. The idea that I have a dark “Cain corner” in my heart didn’t sit well. I repented. I asked God to give me eyes to see people as he sees them, and joy for friends who were doing his Kingdom work. I prayed that I would see us as family. Mostly, I asked him to help me kill my pride.
I wanted to know more though…does the God I love play favourites? Will he choose the “best” to be his servants? Do I have a reason for this jealousy that I’ve somehow missed? The story of Martha and Mary- Jesus sides with Mary; Jacob and Esau- God blesses Jacob, on and on it goes looking like God picks one over the other. But God makes it perfectly clear:
For God does not show favouritism. Romans 2:11 (NIV)
Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favouritism. Acts 10:34 (NIV)
In other words, I can’t get so uptight that someone will get more God than me, or that the work he needs done here will be used up on everyone else BUT me. There’s plenty of God to go around, and there’s plenty he can use us for, even if it’s not what our sister is doing.
Our Father, is not our earthly father. His lap is bigger and we can all fit on it. He can see us all at once, and won’t raise a hand in our faces to say “wait a minute, your sister was already talking”. He doesn’t show up to your sister’s dance recital, and have to miss your soccer game so to speak. He can be everywhere all.the.time. He is also not a parent like we are parents. He doesn’t have a favourite kid based on who was on their best behaviour that day, or kept him up all night with endless requests (anyone else want to admit that they do this with their kids?). He doesn’t find one of us cuter than the other, or smarter than the other, or more talented. He doesn’t have the flaws we have as parents, and he doesn’t have the limitations we see in our own parents. God does not show favouritism.
God does want humble hearts, and he has a place for all of us in his Kingdom work. No need to clamour your way to the top. In fact, lower yourself and he will use you.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.. 1 Peter 5:6 (ESV)
So there you have it. The deep, down, dark uglies residing in the shadows of my heart. I am a work in progress! I am grateful God has shown me this and is refining me so that I can acknowledge it and change the behaviour. I tell you all in this, risking that you may think of me as a horrible person for thinking such thoughts, in hopes that my honesty will cause you to be honest with yourself. Maybe not publicly, maybe with a friend, maybe just you and God will discover this together in your heart. But, if this is you too, if you also have Cain-like envy towards your sisters (and brothers) I encourage you to humble yourself, and repent. This may just knock a giant hole in our guarded walls that we’ve been working through together. God has brought this to my attention not because he hates me, but because he wants me to be better. Not better than you, better for him.
I finish this with an apology. To those whom I have judged when it wasn’t my place. To those whom I intentionally didn’t cheer on out of envy. To those I smiled at and seemed polite too, but was ever so jealous of their relationship with our Father. I am sorry.