He Loves Me, He loves Me Not . . .
Hurley was my first dog. Almost seven-years-old when I got him, he was a rescue dog with a sordid past who quickly absorbed all the affection I offered. Three years later, as Hurley’s age chased his tenacious spirit, I got Gus. The two dogs never did learn to love each other, but fought relentlessly for my affection. Gus loved rawhide chewies, where Hurley could care less for them. Still, if Gus got a chewie then Hurley demanded one as well; simply to symbolize that I loved him just as much. Every night they raced to the bed to claim the spot nearest me, always trying to trick the other into giving up the preferred position. One night Gus beat Hurley to the punch, but instead of the usual tussle of fur and fangs, Hurley asked to go outside as Gus settled in amongst the pillows. I obliged Hurley’s request, only to have him knock on the door moments later. He emerged from the back yard with a freshly dug up chewie. He marched it to the foot of the bed, dropped it loudly for Gus to hear, and as Gus hopped down to retrieve it Hurley stole his spot on the bed. It was a moment of brilliance for the old dog, a testimony to the power of jealousy and fight for affections.
Rachel and Leah both longed for the affections of their husband Jacob. Rachel did not need to fight, Jacob loved her from the moment he saw her. Leah, on the other hand, could do nothing to acquisition Jacob’s love. Even when Leah gave birth to Jacob’s first, second, third, fourth son; still he did not love her. Rachel, barren at the time, became jealous of Leah’s children while Leah grew increasingly jealous of the unconditional love Rachel received from Jacob. The two women fought, sending their handmaidens to sleep with Jacob, creating a continued rift between their children. The feud became so great that the women fought over mandrakes, a fruit believed to produce fertility. They literally fought over fruit. Why? For the promise of gaining affection.
My husband recently stepped down from a Youth Pastor position. He worked for the same church for six and a half years. After two years there I became keenly aware that I was not what they hoped I would be. I am not much of a fighter and retreated from any participation in the church. Which left me with four years as a spectator to my husband’s life in ministry. In that time, I watched him tie himself in knots trying to please and gain the affections of the leadership over him. A battle he never won. Every staff meeting, pastoral meeting, one on one with the Senior Pastor ended with my husband weeping behind closed doors; having been torn to shreds again and again. He could do no right. I wept with him and for him. I sit ashamed to admit that I longed to just walk away from faith and live like “normal people.” My husband would not give up, and God blessed him. He has a new job now at a church that has embraced us and loved us without judgment or fear.
I ought to feel happy. I should dust me feet of the past six years, and walk with joy in the promises that lay before me . . . but I am struggling. Today, the pastor of that church put on Facebook what a great day it was: they had hired Jason’s replacement. The young man they hired is a beloved son in the church, someone who everyone will be happy to have in that position. If I were perfect, I would rejoice with them and be happy for them. Instead I find myself reliving the great hurt I felt all those six years. More shameful, I am jealous. So much so that I wanted to unfriend that Pastor . . . I don’t want to hear anymore about how happy he is that we are gone. I can rationalize in my mind that I am feeling petty. I know how ugly jealousy is, still it taunts me. This hurt I feel all stems from the reality, that the new Youth Pastor and his wife already have the affection that eluded Jason and I for all those years.
I have heard it taught that when God gave the Ten Commandments, the two tablets divided the commands into those directing our relationship with God and those directing our relationship with fellow-man. This theory would put the command to “not covet” in the category of our relationship with fellow-man. I argue with that. I realize as I sense jealousy in my own life that covetousness comes from the desire for affection. What causes dogs to fight over a queen size bed, or grown women to fight over fruit? What tempts my heart to write off an entire church that God loves? The desire to be honored with unconditional love and acceptance; things that God has already offered.
Jealousy has nothing to do with our relationship with one another and everything to do with our relationship with God. Only when we realize that we ARE unconditionally loved and accepted can our jealousy be healed. It says in Genesis that God saw that Leah was unloved so He gave her children . . . and not just any children. God gave Leah Judah; a son through whom Jesus Christ would come. Leah looked for the affections of Jacob, and missed the deep love of God.
Today as a I again mourn the acceptance that never was nor will be, I look to God asking that He would heal my jealousy with the love of Christ. May you, too, know that God sees where you are unloved. May you experience the gift He gives in His son, that you may live in the liberating power of His love for us, a life free of jealousy and strife.