Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Jealousy that Protects

"...for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord,
who name is Jealous, is a jealous God),
Exodus 34:14
Last week I set out to write a blog on jealousy. Interestingly jealousy had its roots in pride that was triggered by the comparisons we so often make. The jealousy exhibited by the leaders resulted in sinful actions so I'm inclined to label that jealousy as toxic jealousy. The pride and the jealousy exposed in the story of Daniel was more glaring in light of Daniel's humility who continued to trust in the living God in tough circumstances. 
A few years ago I wrote a book on emotions to use in our support groups. I wrote a chapter on jealousy. I looked the word up in the Bible to see what God says about it. I came across familiar verses that said God is a jealous God. But then found the verse that states that God's name is Jealous which indicates that the name is a part of His essence. If we're made in His image it means that  the potential for jealousy is written on our hearts, by the Creator Himself. If that were true, then jealousy, in and of itself, is not a sin. We were given that emotion for a reason, and because of the fall and the stirring of pride in our hearts by the fall that emotion has been tainted by sin.
Emotions are given to us by God to help us navigate our world and our relationships in godly and healthy ways. Emotions tend to reveal something to us about our hearts. Sometimes it's positive and sometimes it reveals sin we can then deal with. When a dear friend died, I felt tremendous grief even thought I knew that she was in heaven. The grief told me how much I valued her friendship. I had seen Jesus in her and learned to have a more intimate relationship with Him because of her. 
There are times that I have gotten angry and the anger was righteous anger because I saw someone being mistreated by another person. I was able to use the anger to motivate me to confront the person and invite them to move back into the light. At other times I have gotten angry because something trickled my pride and I let my desires turn in to expectations then demands. When that happened I either confront in an aggressive, nonproductive way or I withdraw to protect my heart rather seeking to grow relationship. 
It's hard to wrap my mind around the concept of godly jealousy. There are two reasons that I could identify for this. First, I've been victimized by people who experienced toxic jealousy triggered by the comparisons they made. Sometimes, it was over the talents I had. Sometimes it was over things I had. Sometimes it was over the spiritual gifts God gave me. I have even had someone come at me in anger because I led a person to the Lord and they had wanted to do it.
The second reason, is I experience the emotion of toxic jealousy birthed by comparisons often. At times I am able to hide it . It takes a lot of energy to keep it under wraps. Other times I sin by withdrawing from a person I feel jealousy toward, because I don't want to feel the jealousy. Sometimes I react sinfully by getting angry or working harder to find something I can feel good about. 
Deuteronomy 4:24 says, "For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God." Other passages on jealousy indicate that God's anger is triggered by His jealousy that was triggered when Israel went after strange gods. That means jealousy is a hot emotion which is why it burns in our hearts. Jealousy was also designed to be a protective emotion. When God saw His beloved Israel going after other gods, He was jealous and angry which motivated Him to action to bring Israel home to His heart. His discipline was motivated by a love that gave them freedom to roam, but demanded allegiance to stay. That is grace. He could have made them puppets or He could have written them off. 
Created in His image, I will experience jealousy. It will burn hot in my heart and that is okay. But as a person prone to sin, I must take the jealousy to God and look at it in the way He designed it to be used. 
I was at a marriage conference with my spouse and stopped to talk to someone while my husband stepped over to talk to someone he knew. A lady who was divorced joined their conversation and then the other person walked away. As I walked up, it was obvious she was flirting with him. He works in agriculture and doesn't wear a wedding ring so she probably didn't know he was married. I felt heat rise in my heart and a surge of protectiveness over my marriage. I could have just gotten angry and gone to the car in a huff. But that day, God gave me the wisdom to move towards my husband and introduce myself to the woman and move the conversation toward what we had learned from the speaker. She quickly began to engage more with me and the awkwardness soon dissipated. He thanked me for helping him out. To be honest, I also did some self reflection on how I could love and respect him more, so that if that ever happened when I wasn't around he would be more inclined to turn away. 
I have experienced jealousy when I have seen the relationships others have with God. The jealousy born of comparisons can lead to toxic jealousy that births slander, ungodly competition, and strife. However, when I feel that hot jealousy ignite, I can use it to move towards a person to hear her story and find out how she developed her relationship with the Lord. When I do this cool things happen. I develop or deepen friendships. I have the opportunity to walk through the painful stories that drew them to the Father's heart--stories I wouldn't  have wanted to live. I also gain tools to use in my personal Bible study and gain perspectives that help me work through a fear of trusting God which enabled me to begin moving towards God during hard times. I've gained an understanding that God works in many different ways in the lives of His children. I have come to expect that, trust that, and rest in that. 
The dangerous thing about ungodly jealousy caused by comparisons is that it triggers pride which stirs anger caused by a sense of entitlement that melts into bitterness over  unmet expectations. When I quit trying to be God's CEO and trust how He chooses to work in my life, I experience precious connection with God that fills my heart with His love, truth, and grace. 
I'm grateful He is Jealous and desires my full devotion. I can trust Him to act when I follow after things that draw my affection away from Him. I am thankful He will do what it takes to draw me back.
I can prevent discipline by examining my life, my affections, and my desires for idols. My idols aren't the idols of the old testament, but are idols created by the same enemy to trigger pride and  dissatisfaction that draws my heart away from God--a god of materialism motivates me to pursue wealth over God, a god of self-protection lends to isolation instead of love, a god of recognition tempts me to write for man rather than my true audience of One, a god of being right causing me to forget the importance of another's heart, the god of being seen which cares more about me being noticed than others seeing Jesus in me. 
I want to be so in love with Him and focused on Him that when my mind goes into neutral it is drawn to Him, not my idols and not the negative thoughts of comparisons. I want to love Him in such away that my obedience flows from a heart of gratitude rather than fear of evoking His discipline. 
My God's name is Jealous! I love it that He is in the business of protecting His relationship to His people. 

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!