Frequently, we joke about things that actually matter to us. Perhaps this is because we are insecure with our ability to make sound judgment, based upon our intellect, acumen, and instinct. After all, we are trained from the cradle — at school, at work, at church, in the movies, on the news — to trust and accept the pronouncements of our experts, leaders, pastors, teachers, and guides.
But an ability to reason and think is not dependent upon one’s social status, family name, or aptitude in raping profits from the masses, and when something doesn’t seem right to us, we are wise to listen to ourselves, even if no one else does.
One of the things we collectively joke about is our reaction to Facebook and other social media that put the lives of others — in all perfection, glory, and accomplished excellence — before us. If we’re not in a relationship, we feel bad because everyone else is. If we’ve got a job, it’s never as fulfilling as that of our “friends.” Even our children, or our pets, are the wrong shape, form, or personality type.
“My life sucks,” we say with a self-deprecating smile. “Isn’t that funny?”
No, it’s not, and the first truth we bring to our reasoning intellect is that social media is shallow, skimming just the surface of things, presenting an outer shell of people we know so distantly, we accept their carefully brushed shellac covering as representative of their entire being. We’ve done this with celebrities and politicians for years; now we do it with our acquaintances. (Generally, the people we know well enough to regularly communicate with, we are not fooled by. We are intimate enough to hear their real thoughts, and express back to them our own.)
Quite recently, I was blindsided by a surging, pulsating sense of jealousy arising from an adventitious post by a person I superficially knew many years ago, and haven’t kept in touch with since. She had something I wanted, and not only that, everything about her was perfect: her hair, her clothes, her circumstances, her life.
“It’s unfair!” I cried to God. “Nothing is wrong with her life. NOTHING.”
Even as I spoke I knew that, 1) I was being inaccurate and, 2) this way of thinking is not good, but there was one thing, to my unexpected gratification, I did not conclude:
“I shouldn’t say things like this! God will be angry with me. I must, before I can come before Him, conquer this evil jealousy within me. I cannot enter His Holy Presence with such unclean thoughts.”
Such is the training I received during years of church indoctrination, in which I was taught the subtle, slippery canons of men in place of the wisdom of God. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Matthew 5:48) someone is sure to advise, were I foolish enough to reveal my true thoughts to a stranger.
But God is no stranger; He is my almost shockingly and too often unbelievably loving Father, and as any good parent knows (or should know — there’s a tremendous amount of bad “Christian” parenting advice about demanding craven obedience from one’s children as a sign of their love), children are just that — children. They grow and learn by gentle teaching, not harsh rejection, and good parents are safe enough, accepting enough, wise enough, understanding enough, that a child can approach and say,
“I feel really angry with my brother. I know it’s not right, but I can’t conquer the feeling within me. What can I do?”
What parent, upon hearing this, would reply,
“Get out of my sight, vile creature, and don’t return until your attitude is right!”
Bad Parenting versus Good
Sadly, some do, but mercifully, God does not style His parenting techniques after the teachings of pop psychological Christian authors and radio show prattlers, or their foolish acolytes. He knows, though we often do not, that our growth into maturity is not something we can reach inside and get if only we try hard enough (false Christianity calls this “faith”), and our attempt to put on a front is just that: we deny our feelings and “act Christian,” which fools our Facebook and church acquaintances, and eventually, even ourselves, but not God.
“Tell me your feelings,” is His invitation to us. “I know them already. It is you, Child, who do not. Together we will work, and I will teach you how to understand your feelings, face them, change them, and because I am gentle and humble in heart, I will not beat you, or hurt you, or be disgusted by you.”
Or, as the apostle Paul puts it in Romans 8:1, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” which means what it sounds like it means, regardless of innumerable Bible studies setting it in lofty heights of twisted theological contortions. The good news of the gospel, twisted theological contortions nudge us into missing, is that God cares for us, understands us, and embraces us.
We are His children, and He Loves Us.
Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where I hope to encourage you to think about the things you’ve been taught about God, and ask yourself, “Is this the kind of Person I want to believe in?” It’s a valid question, you know, and you’re perfectly in line with asking it, as well as seeking an answer.
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We have the Holy Spirit dwelling on the inside of us. We have all the fruits of the spirit. What we need to do is develop those fruits, which in simple terms means that we need to practice using them. Results will not come over night, but as we practice developing each of the fruits, feeling of jealousy which were once a major issue for us, will be easily overcome.
I agree, Matthew, that the Holy Spirit dwelling within us is a wonderful, invigorating, stupendously beautiful thing! And one that we frequently, as George MacDonald observes, give little credit as to be able to do anything.
Here is where I will make the slightest verbal amendment — we are unable, within ourselves, to develop those fruits — frequently, we don’t even know what they are, so often do we discount God’s gifts from the ones we are taught to seek (“leadership,” “teaching,” “evangelism” — all the perks without the aspects the apostle Paul lived with). For myself, I start each day with, “God, I can’t even take the next breath without You. As I take each step, may I be aware that You are there, at my side. And thank You that You are.”
I mentioned being “blindsided” by jealousy simply because that is what it was — it came out of nowhere, and while in earlier years I would have convinced myself that I was “beyond” all that, I now rest in knowing that I am human, and temptations assail me like a storm. “Resist this,” was the voice that spoke from within. “Resist this,” not, “You stupid child you, you should be beyond all this!”
We have all of the fruit of the spirit, in fact the word fruit is singular. We know what they are because the Bible lists them. We may not have all the gifts of the Spirit, but we can seek them, indeed we told to “earnestly the best gifts”.
We are born with the old sin nature and therefor jealousy will be aroused now and then. Rebound is what you can do. Jesus has paid for our sins and even though jealousy is a sin it has been paid for by our loving Lord and Savior. So it is not an issue, just state it and get on with your life. God is interested in having a relationship with you and not about your shortcomings. It is all about a relationship with him that should concern you.
Thank you, Barbara. This is, indeed, one way of looking at the matter, and one which brings comfort to many. It is not something that my mind allowed to lay to rest, however, and I am on the lifelong quest of learning more! As your last sentence aptly states, it is all about our relationship with Him which, thankfully, concerns Him first, foremost, and more than it concerns His human children, and He spends a lot of time amongst the bushes, looking for frightened, bleating sheep. (There are a lot of us.)
Paul in Romans 8 gave a great treatise on this whole subject, which I see differently now as I learn more and more about the love, a love with no end, of our Father. In the process of doing this, I have been asking questions (something we must, Must, MUST do as Christians) about the doctrines I have been told are incontrovertibly true, like “the doctrine of original sin,” and the “penal substitutionary atonement of Christ,” two major stumbling blocks to (for me) fully comprehending, accepting, or seeking out the unconditional love of God. In recognizing that these doctrines are merely theories, some among many, and like all theories, do not and should not purport to represent the fullness of truth, I am, bit by bit, finding the freedom in Christ that I was told about 35 years ago, but never saw in any traditional church situation.
I highly recommend the Unspoken Sermons of George MacDonald, which are free on Kindle, and reasonably priced at this link — https://www.amazon.com/Unspoken-Sermons-II-III/dp/1490361812/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1476466476&sr=8-1&keywords=unspoken+sermons. MacDonald wrote at a time when what we see “normal” as evangelical Christianity today was just getting its start, before being picked up and funded by corporate interests in the early 20th century, and then later in the 1950s, and he saw the pitfalls of this belief system: ultimately, it leads believers to a God who is not loving, because He places so many stumbling blocks in people’s way before He agrees to love them.
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