A Jealousy to Rest In 

When I was in seventh grade I fell in love for the first time and adversely learned what unrequited love was for the first time.

I was crazy about a guy who I sat next to in my math class. He made me laugh, and he had beautiful green eyes that lit up when his wide smile was shown. Everything a thirteen-year-old girl could want. I thought this guy was the one, just as one does when in middle school and thinking they know the whole of the world. I was so set on this guy, I talked about him nonstop to anyone and everyone: my mom, my friends, the poor person I sat next to in English class, anyone who would listen—I wanted them to know how wonderful I thought this thirteen-year-old boy was and how he was going to be my boyfriend someday.

However, there was only one problem with this boy—he was a flirt. He would flirt with every little middle school girl that gave him a chance and thus I was one of many for him, so for the first time I also learned what soul crushing relational jealousy felt like. I say soul crushing, because that’s what it was. I was jealous of any other girl he made laugh, or any other girl he showed that bright smile to, and it consumed me. It took me over. I wanted to be the only one. I wanted to be his only one like he was mine.

That boy and I never worked out. I was perpetually put into his group of many and he was forever placed as my one and only, at least until middle school ended.

This narrative about my middle school romantic life has a purpose other than to make myself cringe at the memory, I promise.

I would like to wager that any number of you reading this has known this feeling. Whether as a blossoming teenage girl with a teenage boy like me or vice-versa, or perhaps in a friendship, or even in seeking a job that you thought was the perfect fit for you but those hiring seemed to think otherwise. A feeling of jealousy has washed over you, at the many other girls, or the friend spending time with other people, or the person who got the job instead of you.

I would like you to draw up that experience. It may be uncomfortable, looking back on it you may recall how bad the feeling was or how you wished you hadn’t had to feel that way, or that you had been smarter than to allow someone into your life who would make you feel that way. Now, I would like you to consider the following scripture,

“For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”

Deuteronomy 4:24

Remember that feeling of jealousy, remember its affect on you, remember the magnitude of it, that feeling of thinking you deserve this thing, and multiply that by infinity and more. That is how Jesus feels for us.

When we live in this world and trust in this world, we are no better than that flirtatious boy who had many teenage girls at his beck and call, we are him. We have someone namely a man who died so that we may live, who counts us as His one and only. He wants to tell everyone about us and wants us to be his forever. He is jealous for us. He wants our heart. He wants our requited love. He wants our communication. He wants our life. He wants our trust. He wants our entire being. He took on our sin as a blameless man and died “the greatest sinner of all time” according to Luther, all because he was so jealous for our life.

Now I ask you to revisit those feelings of jealousy again, how you so desperately wanted to prevail, to be the one the boy, the friend, the job turned to and accepted. So does Jesus desire of us. His desire is that we might turn to him and that he might be our one and only as we are His; that we might want to talk endlessly of him and to him and be his for eternity.

When we stop turning to the many things of this world, acting like that boy who broke my heart, we receive that which we so desperately seek—prevailing as the one and only of Jesus. And the beauty of it all is that unlike my placing this boy as my one and only until middle school ended, we won’t stop being his one and only. If we give him the trust he desires in earnest and stop communing with this world more than him, it won’t just be until the “end of middle school” that this is true, it will be for eternity. He is jealous for us, and that is the most beautiful truth of this world.

CH Spurgeon in his devotional Morning and Evening says,

“To abide in him only, this is true love; but to commune with the world, to find sufficient solace in our carnal comforts, to prefer even the society of our fellow Christians to secret intercourse with him, this is grievous to our jealous Lord. He would fain have us abide in him, and enjoy constant fellowship with himself; and many of the trials which he sends us are for the purpose of weaning our hearts from the creature, and fixing them more closely upon himself.”

 CH Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, Morning, September 12th

Spurgeon calls on us to give in to this jealous Lord who wants us. That we might enjoy constant fellowship with him, in order that we stop relying on the things of this world that will ultimately disappoint, and turn to him for truth, hope, and comfort.

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The Greatest Gardener

 

Consider the wildflowers, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!

Luke 12: 27-28 

A few days ago, I was outside talking to my grandma on the phone.  I like to make my phone calls outside, one because when there is a chance someone will see me whilst driving by, I stop my relentless pacing that takes place when I am indoors (gee, thanks social anxiety) and two because I like to be out in the fresh air, and have company whilst doing so.  Often times, however, I find myself doing things while I am talking.  Either I am going through Instagram, forsaking the beauty before me in conversation and in the outdoors, or I am staring at the lawn sitting in front of me and the dandelions creep into my head and are relentless in their calling me to remove them from the green grass.  The other day the latter transpired.
My grandma and I were talking about some pretty heavy things, she was giving me encouragement regarding some major life decisions I have made in the last week, extending her willing hand to help me however I needed, reminding me of God’s sovereignty through it all.  Though the conversation was compelling, I still felt the urge to pull all of the weeds which resided in every crack and crevice of the driveway and on every square inch of the yard.  I saw them all and saw how even in the midst of this conversation they took away from the beauty of the front of our cute little house and distracted me from the things at hand.
I worked tirelessly then, even after I hung up from my grandma, to make sure all the weeds I could find were pulled up from the roots and thrown in the garbage that was to be taken the next day, never to be seen again.
Let me tell you, it looked great when I was finished.  Weeds that had been growing in the cracks of the cement in our drive were now lying as waste and it looked smooth and clean just as something that a car drives over daily should look.  I was so proud, that everyone who drove by could see that our driveway was clear and clean—someone obviously cares at that house, right?
While I was clearing these weeds though, I had a thought about the way I was pulling these weeds with my two pronged weeding tool that digs deep, sitting on both sides of the root to pull the weed completely out, in hopes of making the lawn and driveway look clear and pristine. The thought was of how this process is so akin to the way Jesus works in our hearts.
Jesus works tirelessly to remove weeds from our heart to make us clean and pristine— the weeds of unbelief, distrust, unforgiving ways, unkindness, anxieties, burdens—the list goes on and on.  When we trust in him as our Lord and Savior, we allow him to come into our hearts to weed.  His tool however, is not like the two pronged one I used to pull the weeds in the front of my house, but his love, the freedom we gain from the blood he shed on the cross, the price he paid to the Father in our place so that we could come to Him and be clean and pristine as Jesus was.
Later that day after weeding, I came upon a quote that read, “The prettier the garden, the dirtier the hands of the gardener.”
My breath was taken after reading this, after contemplating the way Jesus weeds our hearts like a gardener earlier in the day.
Jesus has the dirtiest hands—they have worked the hardest, paid the ultimate price.  The cleanest gardener went from white as snow, to covered in blood, with a crown of thorns on his head and nails in his palms, all so he could have the prettiest garden in us.  We just have to give him the opportunity to do his work in the garden, because it has already been done, he has already made us clear and pristine.  He has already determined it is our place to have the passerby admire the way our soul is clear and pristine, so they can see his glory, and because of that, we don’t worry about the weeds. All we have to do is let the truth that he has and is taking care of the weeds, reside in our hearts.

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Caregiver: Having a Soft Heart in a Hard World

My entire life, I have been the “mom” friend. You know, the one friend in the group who is the voice of caution, the advice giver, the “wise” one. This has always meant I am placed in the position of caregiver, whether I like it or not.  I am relied upon to be there when friends and others fall, and to be the one who they can come to when times are rough. These are duties I have always been happy to attend to. However, this title has also often meant lots of hurt in relationships, acting as what I felt was a weakness in my personality. I have found myself in relationships where I am considered the “mom” reach a point it becomes a one way relationship—me taking care of them, constantly, with hardly anything in return.
When my relationships seem to morph into these sorts, is when I always disdain being a caregiver by nature. I begin to resent these relationships because I feel like I am giving so much care, pouring my entire heart into this human connection, and receiving little to nothing in return. I ache because I want so badly for these people I love, to love me the way I love them in return. I love so deeply and completely I want to feel the same from them. I can’t even count the number of sleepless nights crying, feeling weak for loving like I do, sobbing to my mom, asking underneath tears why I love too much.
As a disclaimer, I said before I have always loved these duties I am given in these relationships, so some of this is brought on by myself. But there has always been a part of me that questions myself, asking why, just why do I have to care so much, pour so much in, love so much when I am not guaranteed that these people I am giving my heart to will love or care for me the same way in return, and in reality often don’t.
These questions have often been the reason I have known ended friendships. I start to hurt so bad that these people aren’t loving me like I expect them to or care for me like I expect them to, so I push them away and claim I can’t do it anymore.
However, I have been lead to the realization that this is not my duty. It is not my duty to determine how others are supposed to care for me or how they are supposed to love me. We are sinful beings incapable of delivering to one another the type of love and care we need. In fact, my desire to make these people “love the way I love” is a kind of greediness.
As I contemplated this topic this week, I began reading Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst.  It was here where it was reveled to me the true nature of these desires of wanting people to love me the way I “needed” in return. TerKeurst tackles the topic with these self-examining words,

“We must respect ourselves enough to break the pattern of placing unrealistic expectations on others.  After all, people will not respect us more than we respect ourselves,” and continues, “No, it’s not wrong to need people.  But some of our biggest disappointments in life are the result of expectations we have of others that they can’t ever possibly meet.  That’s when the desire to connect becomes an unrealistic need.  Unrealistic neediness is actually greediness in disguise.” (page 45 of Uninvited)

I love to paraphrase that, but I don’t think it could possibly fit the topic at hand better. I have come to the following realization: It is merely my duty to care and love to the best of my ability all those around me. To remember that I sin and they sin, and that breeds hurt no matter how complete your human love or care might be it is not enough. But this heart that I possess is not a weakness, it was created by God and given to me to be a caregiver and a deep, deep lover. So that is what I will do.
But then, I am still left with the inherent desire for human love and care.
Don’t get me wrong. I have several relationships where I am cared for and loved beyond measure. But regarding those relationships where I would question if that is the case or not—I can release my unrealistic expectations of others and rest soundly. I can be contented with a peace in my heart that can only be known by understanding that I am loved for and cared for by the ultimate caregiver, by the ultimate lover, Jesus.
So as I sit here and contemplate my heart’s varying feelings and desires I can find a comfort in knowing that the God of the Universe, who is love, sent His son, to show His love for me, to show His care for me, to make me clean. All in a fashion that I could never even attempt to wrap my mind around, because the nature of Jesus’ care and love is beyond human comprehension. All I can do is accept this gift of grace humbly and learn from it how to love others.
His love and care reaches so far beyond that of human beings’ capability, including mercy and grace that no human can deliver, that only his love and care can present.
With this I challenge you to examine your life and find the areas where you feel that you are being let down and recognize that God is using that in your life to help you realize something bigger in His plan and recognize His deep, deep care, love, and provision for you, that will never fall short, that will never fail. 
 
The LORD your God is in your midst, 
  a mighty one who will save; 
he will rejoice over you with gladness; 
  he will quiet you by his love; 
he will exult over you with loud singing. 
                                                      Zephaniah 3:17
                                                     (emphasis added)