Under all the many facades I have and use throughout my day, lies a vicious beast. Her name is “Jealousy” and she’s no friend. She’s a cruel task master that drives me; her whip, relentless against my conscience. I’ve no control over her; in her grip I’m no better than a child’s rag-doll: limp and spineless. Her tongue is swift; she’s capable to spin the most amazing tales that weave and wend through my ears to my mind, plaguing me with lies. I’m blindsided when she surfaces; joyous moments are turned–in the blink of an eye–into gloomy ones, gloomy edged with the red of anger. And while you can’t see her, I feel her burdensome presence heavy on my mind and heart, in my muscles and bones.
In the hands of God jealousy is a good thing used to show and express how much He loves us (cf. the entire bible); in my hands, jealousy is a bad thing that exposes (to me) how much I want not to love you and, to be honest, how much I want to dominate and devour you. When jealousy rears her head, I see not a person before me but a thing that exposes all my failures and shortcomings, a thing to be conquered and quashed. When God says that He’s jealous for us, something beautiful happens: He sends His son, Jesus Christ, into the world to save all of us wandering whores; when I’m jealous, something ugly happens: i think only of myself and my next move to assert myself over you.
No matter how eloquently I speak of my jealousy and anthropomorphise it, the problem of my jealousy is neither eloquent nor an other thing/persona. My jealousy reveals that there is glitch in the system, my system; it reveals that there’s a problem, a big problem. And that problem is with me and my broken mind and hardened heart. Jealousy doesn’t happen to me, but from within me. Jealousy is a loud siren and bright flashing red light that all is not well, that I’m completely broken.
My mind is adept at creating a story-line that’s not real and then simultaneously swallowing it whole: hook, line, and sinker. In the spaces and gaps between the dots and facts my mind connects to create these false story-lines, jealousy is born. And since jealousy is embedded and born from my own mind, there’s no hope that I’ll solve this problem and silence her seductive whispers, from within. I can’t. The very thing I need to fix this problem–my mind–is being held captive by the problem.
I need another story-line. I need a true story-line.
And for this troubled and delusional mind, there is no better remedy than the Word of God which is Christ and His word the Gospel. The external and preached word of the Gospel is the sword that pierces my perceived reality and makes way for actual reality to enter into my world, my life, my mind. To hear that God loves me so much that He sent His only son to die for my transgressions and raised him for my justification (John 3:16; Rom 4:25) even in the midst of my current wretched jealous state, brings me to my knees; and I cry out: forgive me, a sinner; forgive me, I’m jealous! In hearing–shema hearing; deep-down-in-my-heart-hearing–what is actual, I am given the words to speak, words that are true and not merely mental fabrications and my false story-line begins to unravel. In hearing what is true and real, I’m given new language, language that accurately declares what a thing is. And being able to declare what a thing is, “calling a spade a spade,” is the beautiful linguistic characteristic that makes a theologian of the cross a theologian of the cross (Forde). Calling a spade a spade loosens the tyranny that thing has over you; it puts it in it’s proper place: at the foot of the cross and under the heal of Him who has crushed it’s head (Gen 3).
Wrapped up in the true story-line that is Jesus Christ and His word that is the Gospel–the doctrine of the justification of sinners (me, you, and the whole world)–we are given rest from concocting half baked notions because we have the facts, we have what is real, and we have the words to declare what a thing is. Wrapped up in the story line of Christ, we are swept up into the arms of a very loving and jealous-for-us God, given the freedom to confess our errors and failures, our sickness and brokenness, and our hard and jealous hearts. Wrapped up in the story-line of Christ, we can relinquish the burden of our delusional minds.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)