Tuesday, June 16, 2009

the "J" word

Every once in awhile, I struggle with jealousy. It is not attractive. For some decrepit reason, I start to look at other people's lives and think that perhaps some of what they have would be better served if I were to possess it. I compare my situation and theirs. I nitpik over minute details and keep score of who has what. I am not proud of any of this, and so I am confessing it.

This week the jealousy flared up a bit again. It never makes me feel better about myself; it only leaves me with an empty and poor spirit. It never puts a smile on my face and a bounce in my step; it only saps my energy and my sense of gratitude. It never helps me to love and serve with compassion; it only makes me irritable and either pouty or possessive. So why do I still entertain the thoughts when they come my way? I really don't know. I have asked God to help me jettison the root of jealousy out of my life lots of times, and for the most part, it is gone. But every once in awhile, it slams me when I am not looking.

This week as I was again doing battle in my mind to keep my thoughts true and real and loving, I read a story in Luke 5. A man with a horrible disease comes up to Jesus and says, "If you want to, you can cleanse me." And Jesus replies as we all knew he would, "I want to. Be clean." Really, when does Jesus NOT want to help and heal and make things clean? So I started to pray the same prayer for my situation. If you want to, Jesus, you can clean up this destructive pattern of jealousy in my thoughts.

I would have been happy with an immediate, "I want to. KAZAM! It's done!" But, of course, God is not a system where I can just punch in the correct sequence of prayer words and get the desired results. Copy cat prayers hardly ever produce copy cat results. From what I have seen and read, God never does anything the exact same way twice (being the master of creativity that he is), especially because no two situations or points in history are exactly the same. Instead, the response I got was, "Do you want it?"

Of course I want to be free! I wouldn't ask if I didn't want to be healed and changed! There is no up side to the "J" condition. Yes, I want to stop ever comparing myself to anyone again. Yes, I want to graciously accept that God is totally in charge of who gets what and never complain about any seeming incongruencies. Yes, I want to have my only sense of value come from what God says about me and not rely on my status, success, or the compliments of others. Of course I would like to give up the right to be angry and put off when I am overlooked and someone else receives what I honestly had coming my way. Hmmm...might need a little help on that one. Yes, I want to stop feeling sorry for myself and yes, I want to always rejoice with others when they succeed, even if it is at my own personal cost. Ouch, that one might hurt a bit. Yes, please let me never want to indulge in the guilty pleasure of seeing others not have everything work out for them, either. Sigh. Tougher than it sounds.

I do want to be free, and I know Jesus wants me to be free even more than I do. But in his great wisdom, he refuses to fight the whole battle for me while I sit back passively. "We are in this together," he says. If I want to get out of this bondage, this slavery, I can't act like a slave anymore (the powerless victim). God is not a slave to me, there to do my bidding, and I am not a slave to my sin. The battle in my mind is over so much more than a few jealous thoughts. It is about thinking like a free person thinks. Like a lover thinks. Like a friend of God thinks.

This a picture of a tug boat and a cargo boat on the Hudson River. Getting there together.

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