In the summer of 1986, our little family (just four of us at the time) moved into this lovely home in the Oak Meadow subdivision in north central San Antonio.
It was our sixth move in six years. And we were delighted to call it our home. The neighborhood was great, with a neighborhood pool that we visited regularly during the summer months. We had a bigger than average back yard for our kids to play in. The house had four bedrooms – more than we needed at the time we moved in, but rooms we filled up over the next six years. We had a wood burning fireplace that was only used occasionally (this was in south Texas, after all), but allowed us to always have a fire going on Christmas morning, no matter how high the temperature was going to be that day.
We were so happy in our new home. It was everything we wanted.
But that all changed a few weeks later.
In my role as the general manager of the local Christian radio station, we were occasionally invited to events where we mingled with people of prominence. One such event took place in fall of 1986. Plans were underway for a city wide outreach event for young people, and Mary Ann and I were invited to a dessert reception to hear all about it. We didn’t know the couple who were hosting the event, but the invitation said their home was in the Dominion subdivision.
Everyone in town knew about the Dominion. It was a gated community northwest of town. If you had a home in the Dominion, you’d be neighbors with George Strait. David Robinson. In later years, Tommy Lee Jones would move in. So would Greg Popovich. Manu Ginobili. And “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
I remember the guard at the entrance to the Dominion checking my name on his list as we arrived. I was sure he was going to realize that we were imposters, that we didn’t belong, and send us away. Somehow, we made it through and arrived at the lovely, spacious home where the reception was being held. I parked our conspicuously out of place car in the street and we headed up to the front door of our host’s home.
There are two things I remember most about that evening. First, I had to use the bathroom, and was directed to the one that was part of the master suite. When I emerged, I asked Mary Ann if she had been in their bathroom yet. She had. I asked her about the contraption that looked like a water fountain connected to the toilet. “It’s a bidet,” she told me. “A bi-what?” She promised to explain later. When she did, I found myself wondering how rich someone has to be to have their own bidet.
The other thing I remember clearly about the evening was our drive back home. When we’d left our house a few hours earlier, I had still been more than contented with our new home on Peppermill Run. Now, as we drove away from the Dominion, I found myself thinking about the plain, dumpy little house we were headed back to. The house with no guard at the front gate. A home with no bidet.
Whenever we’ve been back in San Antonio through the years, we’ve driven by our old house. We have lots of fond memories of our time there. The home movies we took during those years show us trimming Christmas trees in our shorts on 70 degree December days. We hosted birthday parties in our living room, set up the Slip ‘n Slide in our back yard, welcomed family and friends who came to visit us and to see the Alamo and the Riverwalk.
I’m not exactly sure what fueled my momentary discontentedness about our lovely little home. It’s not that I wanted to live in a gated community or to have a bidet in my master bathroom. But there is a reason God includes the seemingly harmless sin of envy on His master list of Thou Shalt Nots. Envy is never a fruit of the Spirit. In fact, it is part of our fallen nature. Envy is one of the works of the flesh highlighted in Galatians 5, nestled between sexual immorality, fits of anger, drunkenness and orgies. Where envy is present, there is no love. No peace. No joy. No contentment.
Envy is a clear declaration that Jesus is not enough for you. You need something else. Something more in order to be happy. That’s the low level discontentedness that the enemy wants to keep operating just below the surface of our lives. He knows how powerful the sin of envy can be in eroding our sense of satisfaction in Christ.
Writing to the church at Philippi from a hole in the ground prison cell in Rome, the Apostle Paul tells his friends that he has learned a secret. It’s the secret, he says, of being content.
“I have learned in whatever situation I am,” he writes, “to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”
What exactly is his secret? How can Paul claim that he is content as he sleeps on the hard ground in a prison cell? “I can do all things,” he says, “through him who strengthens me.”
If you find yourself battling with envy or discontentedness today, thinking that the key to joy is a change of circumstances, think again. Anchor your heart in Jesus. Rejoice that you belong to Him. Lift your eyes from what is in front of you to the mountain range of grace that is on the horizon. That’s where your help comes from.
And take a minute to think about five things for which you are thankful today. Five blessings. Express your gratitude to God in prayer. Sing a favorite hymn. Remind yourself of what Jesus accomplished on the cross. Remind yourself that He has conquered death and hell. And remind yourself that as His child, you will live with Him forever.
See if that doesn’t weaken the grip that envy might have on your heart.
This is the time of year when we are normally talking about summer time activities. Pool parties. A trip to the ball park to see a Travelers game. Special activities for the kids. Back to school plans. And getting ready for small groups to start up again in the fall. Normally, we’d have an activities calendar put together for the second half of the year.
But nothing is normal in 2020.
As we continue to look for guidance and wisdom from our civic leaders, we must also be thinking and praying about creative ways we can continue to live out the disciplines and practices of our faith.
I am grateful for how technology enables us to still worship together on Sunday mornings. I know for those who are able to be part of our service at our church home on Sundays, the weekly opportunity to be with one another for worship has been especially meaningful. For those who aren’t able to be part of the gathered worship service, I believe that even though we are separated, God is still at work in our midst. In fact, I’m hearing many stories about how God is at work in the lives of people who have started joining us regularly on line for our service.
My consistent prayer for you during this time is that you are finding ways to care for the needs of your soul. That you are regularly connecting with others in our church body. I pray that you are not drifting spiritually. And that if you sense you are, that you’ll reach out to us so we can help you stay tethered to Jesus.
Be intentional about your faith during this season. In a time when nothing feels normal, make sure you find a new normal that draws you back to Jesus every day.
By now you know the Sunday morning routine. Mrs. Jen’s Gospel Zone lesson for kids will begin online at 9:40am. And our worship service starts at 10:00am. This week, we’ll wrap up our study of John 6, looking at the right way and the wrong way to respond when we hear Jesus saying things that are hard to accept or that make us uncomfortable.
See you (in person or on line) Sunday!
Soli Deo Gloria!