Skip to main content

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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

fun with hermeneutics

I am a reader. The stacks of books in my bedroom, living room, and office, many of them still waiting to be cracked open, testify to this fact. I love to read, but I also know that not all reading is the same. Some is more work and some is more pleasure. A light work of fiction requires little of me but to engage my imagination and be carried away by the story. Online reading requires a bit (or a lot) of discernment to make sure the sources are reliable and the facts check out. Academic reading requires me to reason through the arguments being made and connect them to what I already know or have read in the field. Reading an ancient text requires that I suspend my 21st century perspective as best I can and learn a bit about the worldview and language of the time. Acknowledging a text's context, intent, and genre enables me to hear the words and ideas in such a way that my view of history and the world are enlarged.

Reading, interpreting, and understanding the Bible are important …

stained and broken

Recently, I was asked to speak at another church, and the passage of Scripture which was assigned to me was John 1:6-8. "There came a man commissioned and sent from God, whose name was John. This man came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe [in Christ, the Light] through him. John was not the Light, but came to testify about the Light." (John 1:6-8, Amplified Bible)

The first question I usually ask when reading something in the Bible is this: What does this tell me about God? Two things are immediately obvious - God is a sending God and God wants to communicate - but there is a third which merits a bit more attention. Though God could communicate directly with humanity, sending truth and love to every individual via some divine mind-and-heart-meld, God chooses to send messengers. Not only that, instead of introducing Jesus directly to the world as the main event, an opening, warm-up act appears as a precursor. What is the point of incorporati…

what binds us together?

For the past few weeks, I have been reading a book by famed psychiatrist M. Scott Peck which chronicles his travels (together with his wife) through remote parts of the UK in search of prehistoric stones. The book is part travel journal, part spiritual musings, part psychology, and part personal anecdotes. A mixed bag, to be sure, and not always a winning combination. At one point, I considered putting the book aside, not finishing it, but then Peck started writing about community. He is no stranger to the concept. He has led hundreds of community-building workshops over the years, helped start a non-profit organisation dedicated to fostering community, and written a compelling book about the topic, one which greatly impacted me when I read it oh so long ago.[1]

In preparation for a course I am teaching next year, I have been doing quite a bit of study on unity and community. Once you start thinking about it, you see and hear evidence of it everywhere. (See my blog on the impact of b…