Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Truth That I'm Loved Sets Me Free!

A friend of mine noticed her daughter was feeling a little jealous of my daughter for having other friends, so she had a little talk with her. I thought she did a beautiful job. She said, How many fingers do I have? Her daughter said, 10. She said, right. I have a finite number of fingers. But love is infinite. Finite is when you only have a certain amount and then that's it, there is no more. Infinite is limitless... it doesn't end... there's always more.  She said, when I was pregnant with your little sister I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to love another as much as I loved you. But when I had her, I discovered that loving her didn't take one ounce of of my love away from you. Love is like that. You don't have to divide it, there is always more.

I thought that was brilliant! She hit the nail on the head. Her daughter was feeling insecure because she was afraid that if my daughter had other friends, it would take away some of the love she had for her. According to wikipedia, jealousy is a secondary emotion and typically refers to the negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, and anxiety over an anticipated loss of something that the person values, particularly in reference to a human connection. Jealousy and envy are similar, however, jealousy is about something one has and is afraid of losing, while envy is about something one does not have and either wants to acquire it, or prevent another from getting it.

I've been on both sides of jealousy and envy and both ends are painful. It helps me to remember when I'm the one being hurt by jealousy, that I have no right to throw stones since I've been guilty of the same sin. It helps me forgive and overlook the offense when I remember the painful place they're in. It evokes a sense of compassion in me for them instead of a sense of anger back toward them. I'm able to not pick up what they're putting down because I realize it's not about me, it's their broken way of dealing with their pain.

When I'm on the other end, the one feeling jealous or envious, it can cause me to cling tightly to what I have for fear that it will be taken away. It can make me obsess over what I don't have. It can lead me to comparing myself with others and leave me feeling ungrateful, unsatisfied, and unhappy. The root of it is selfishness. (On a side note, God refers to himself as a jealous God (Ex 20:5). Since we know that He cannot sin, we must assume there is such thing as godly jealousy. Even Paul mentions he had a godly jealousy for the Corinthians. This kind of jealousy is selfless and arises out of a deep compassion and welfare for another. That's not what I'm talking about here.)

Have you ever been standing there with a friend and one or two people come by and compliment your friend on their hair, or outfit, or house, or kids.  Then they turn to you and say something like, "Her kids are so sweet, doesn't she have the greatest kids?" and you smile and agree, but inside you're thinking, "What about mine"? You suddenly feel insecure. It's crazy because a minute before that you were perfectly satisfied with all those things, the only thing that changed was your perception of yourself, because you compared yourself. Ever wonder why Jesus had to tell us to rejoice with those who rejoice? He knew it wouldn't come natural for us. Why is it more natural to feel jealousy and envy, and self pity when another is blessed, rather than joy for them? Could it be that we are more self-centered than others-centered?

Surely I'm not the only one who struggles with these disgusting thoughts. The bible says that all sin is common to man. Even Jesus' disciples fought over who was the greatest. They each wanted to have the most worth in their Father/s eyes. Jesus' answer was, "The least is the greatest." He was letting them know that His kingdom was completely opposite of the kingdoms of the world. And what about Peter?" When Jesus told him he was going to suffer? He said, "Lord, what about this man?" He was comparing himself to John. The Lord said, "What is it to you?" Really, why do we make it our business what's going on with another? What is it to us? If it's something good we say, "What about me"? If it's something bad we say, "What about them"?

In our broken human condition, whenever we perceive a threat (like we're about to lose something/someone we value), we become like territorial animals. We become possessive and controlling and even desire ill will for the one that hurt our feelings. In our fallen state, our instinct is to protect ourselves, even at the cost of hurting another. We begin this primal behavior as children. I try to teach my kids to just do their best and not to compare themselves with anyone else. I tell them that we've all been given different gifts and talents and encourage them to do whatever they do with all their heart. 

Comparing ourselves is really fruitless anyway. If we "win a competition", we frantically try to hold on to the title. It's crazy because our record won't last forever, it will eventually be broken. We will always find someone out there better than us in every area eventually. So why do we even play the game when we are doomed to lose? We do it to get a sense of worth, to feel secure. If we compare ourselves with another and deduce we're better than them, we feel superior, proud, and look down on them because they're not like us. If we compare and conclude we're less than them, we feel inferior, unworthy and try to acquire worth either by taking their worth from them (usually through gossip or slander) or by trying to prove our worth through some form of idolatry... beauty, wealth, education, fame, what we wear, what we drive, where we live, who we know, how spiritual we are... Basically, we try to get our worth from whatever the culture around us values. We think in terms of "if only". If only I had this, then I'd be happy. The sad part is... it's all an illusion, a lie. These things were never meant to fill us.

Having things isn't necessarily bad or wrong. In fact God gives us things specifically for our enjoyment. 1 Tim 6 says that God lavishly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. But in the same breath He warns us not to put our hope in things as uncertain as wealth, but to put our hope in God. The problem arises when we cling to these things and try to get life from them, instead of enjoying them and sharing them when they come our way and holding them loosely because they are uncertain and temporary. God tells us not to put our hope in them because He knows they are not a safe source of life and worth. They don't make good gods. They continually let us down. When we're trying to get our life from the created instead of from our Creator, it keeps us in a perpetual state of hunger and insecurity.  

If someone were to ask us, most of us would deny that we have replaced our relationship with God, with an idol. We don't set out to do this. We're lulled into it very subtly...  Open the morning paper and into your lap will fall a dozen advertisements telling you that you need this grill or that boat to make you happy. Turn on the television and you're bombarded with commercials telling you that you're not cool unless you drink a certain beer or drive a certain car. Open up a magazine and you'll be told that you're worthless unless you have flawless skin like this model or hip clothes like that model. Drive along the road and billboards will tell you that you're "fugly" (fat and ugly) because you don't have a certain body type. Our culture leaves no room for uniqueness. It constantly defines our worth... if we let it. We must intentionally filter out these lies, or we'll find ourselves bowing down to them.

1Cor. 4:16 says, "Outwardly we're wasting away, but inwardly we're being renewed day by day for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal." When we put our hope in the things that will inevitably fade, we are setting ourselves up for a fall. Our flesh places so much value on what is seen... the tangible, the temporary, and yet the unseen is what is truly valuable. Our hope is misplaced. We waste our entire lives chasing the things that are passing away. We cling to these things and wonder why we feel like we're dying inside. Idols are dead. There is no life in them. When we feed on them, they give us an illusion of fullness, a temporary fix, but ultimately leave us feeling unsatisfied with a continual lust for more. 

Remember the two trees in the middle of the garden of Eden? We have to choose which tree to eat from; which tree will be our center. Only when we eat from the tree of life, will we experience true life. Satan tries to deceive us into thinking that life is found in the forbidden tree. The forbidden tree keeps us trapped in the cycle of trying to get life/worth through constantly assessing ourselves and others. We keep trying to get what we already have because a veil is over our eyes and we don't believe we have it. The tree of Life offers freedom because we can see the truth. We are aware that we already have life and worth and are free from trying to get it. The enemy places veils over our eyes to keep us in the darkness, unaware of reality. It's like in the movie, The Matrix, we have a choice, we can either take the blue pill and stay asleep to what's real and continue living under the delusion, or we can take the red pill and wake up to reality (real life) and escape the matrix of lies and be freed from it's bondage. Jesus came to set the captives free.

We were created to get Life from Him alone. There is no life outside of Him. Everything outside of him is slowly dying. He never forces us, but continually offers us Life to the full. When we find ourselves unsatisfied with a continual thirst, we need to notice if we've stopped drinking from the fountain of life and are drinking from a mirage in the dessert again. If we have stopped getting our life from Him and started trying to acquire it in other ways, we don't need to shame ourselves, just simply turn back to Him who is our true source for life.  We are only sustained and satisfied when we remain in Him. He's like the outlet and we're the plug. We only experience true life when we're plugged into Him. In Him we are satisfied because we are truly loved, valued, and secure... everything our souls hunger for is met in Him. When our hunger is satisfied, the things of this world no longer look appealing. When we know that we are unconditionally loved by our Father and valued just as we are by the one who knows us best, we no longer feel the need to seek validation from others to prove our worth. The key to wholeness, fullness, and freedom isn't to try to acquire worth through some sort of idol, but to wake up to the fact that we already have worth. As we grasp the truth that we are deeply loved and cherished just as we are, that truth sets us free. When we live out of a fullness as opposed to an emptiness, everything we do becomes an expression of that love instead of a desperate attempt to get it.