Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Incredible Beauty of Jealousy

There is a chance that this blog will take a more personal turn. I have said before and I'll say it again that I really believe that a person's whole inner life does not need to be given so freely to the internet. The internet cheapens things like that. But that said, I also believe that if I write and earnestly hope to encourage people and inspire others to think, then I equally can't gloss over issues of the heart as if they were unimportant. Since the most pertinent tool I have in all of this is my own personal experience, I will cautiously share my own heart issues for the above-mentioned purpose. And all that to introduce what will probably be an anticlimactic series of thoughts now. :)

Awhile ago, maybe a couple months, a mentor of mine pointed out something, saying, "because beauty's your thing." She wasn't saying I was beautiful, but commenting on the fact that I really have made the last year or so of blogging a focus on the beauty of a person's heart. And she was right. (I actually really appreciated that she had noticed). But I dearly want people to understand how valuable they are, and to discover hope and life. For those that remember, the original foundation of this blog was to inspire women. It has become much more generalized since then, but the ideation of hope and of personal value remains. I write this to say that I have spent the last year or two doing a lot of soul searching regarding beauty, hope, love, and all the kinds of things I write about. It may sound obvious, but when I write about something, it's usually because it's been on my mind recently.

In making so much of my focus publicly and privately about intrinsic value, I would honestly say that I have a certain understanding that I didn't used to about who I am. I believe that I am valuable. It would be such a hoax to write to people what I question about myself. And of course we all have our bad days. But this past year to year and a half of writing has inadvertently marked a spiritual journey of my own that entails believing in my inherent worth in a way I never have before. Not because I'm a good person, not because I can cosmically combine a good make-up day and a good hair day on the same day, not because I have any of the things or experiences that I have, not because so-and-so thinks I'm nice, thinks I'm pretty, thinks I'm deep, thinks I'm anything. I have value because Jesus says I do. And that's enough for me.

But today was interesting for me. It's tailing what has been a good week overall, albeit an out-of-the-box one. Second Mile (my church) has been going through the book of James, which for those who are unfamiliar with it is something of a kick in the pants. But today, among many things, we discussed jealously. Jealousy, I found out, is not the same as envy. It's ironic that we call jealousy the Green Eyed Monster because incidentally enough, jealousy actually means 'to be red in the face,' to be so passionate about something so as to involve your emotions, to be moved physically by what is occurring emotionally. Jealousy, then, is not all bad. And this whole new look on jealousy particularly brings into light a series of confusing passages describing God as a "jealous God." God, then, is not a "jealous God" because He is hopping up and down with envy; He is a jealous God because His passion and His love for us moves Him to be "red in the face" when we so casually disown Him.

I don't know about you, but this is moving. I have a tendency to settle into thinking that good graces are earned. I know people love me, but the catch lies in how deeply I think people love me. You love me, but I am still going to earn your favor by not imposing on you. The same is true for how I sometimes (ok often) end up viewing God. How I cheat myself! Because we also learned today that James and Jesus alike describe God's people as adulterous not because of physical sexual scandal, but because of the analogy that exists throughout Scripture of God as a husband and the church as a wife. He loves us that much. He is jealous for us that much. His anger is not from detached disdain, but passionate betrayal. Nobody likes being cheated on, least of all God. And I don't say that to underline our actions as humans so much as His actions - His love - as God. For as much as He's jealous for us, He also cares for us, and protects us, and dearly wants us to trust Him with our lives.

This is where I think many tragedies have happened with regard to taking the Bible out of its context. People have used the wrath of God to dangle guilt over others in order to motivate them with fear. But they have misread. They have missed the underlying love in the words of God, the fact that He is speaking to His people about their relationship. The Bible breathes relationship. Relationships are risky, dangerous, rewarding, and dynamic. They can bring life, joy, and laughter as easily as they can bring sorrow. The Bible is the account of a perfect, loving, relational God sharing His love with a certainly imperfect, sin-laden, albeit relational people. If you see God as static and boring, then you have not spent enough time with Him yet.

A hateful God, or an apathetic one, would not say, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing" (Matthew 23:37). Nor would he say, "For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11). Or, "Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?" (Ezekiel 18:23). Nor would Isaiah declare, "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young" (40:11).

I am taking this week to trust God. I am daring to believe in a God that loves me more than I can comprehend, and trust in a God that doesn't just passively care that I exist but actively works for my good in all things. I am taking a step of deeper, scarier, and more genuine faith this week in letting Him be God and me be Christy. I am renewed by learning so much more about His jealousy, because I am not accustomed to being actively protected. But it speaks deeply into my soul that God cares enough to be so jealous on my behalf. And not just mine, but on the behalf of all the living, breathing works of art we call humanity. I am daring to believe that God is bigger and more powerful than my pre-conceived notions about worth, however sophisticated they may appear to the outsider. In short, I am learning to comprehend what God means when He says I'm worth it, and I'm beginning by going back to what He says. It may be an understatement to say I expect to grow a lot in this.


(Image from Youthforserenity.com, posted by Victoria Kay. Found on Google)