Under all my many facades lies a vicious beast. Her name is Jealousy, and she’s no friend. She’s a cruel taskmaster relentlessly whipping my conscience. She’s uncontrollable; in her grip I’m a rag-doll, limp and spineless. Her tongue is swift; she spins the most amazing lies. And while I can’t see her, I feel Jealousy’s presence heavy on my mind and heart, in my muscles and bones.

God’s jealousy shows how much He loves us (cf. the entire bible); my own jealousy exposes how much I want not to love and, to be honest, how much I want to dominate whoever makes me jealous. When Jealousy rears her head, I see my friends not as people but as things that expose my failures and shortcomings. 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 wanderers; when I’m jealous, I think only of myself and how to assert myself.

No matter how eloquently I speak of “Jealousy,” and no matter how poetically I anthropomorphize “her,” true jealousy is neither eloquent nor external. Jealousy is glitch in the system, my system. Jealousy doesn’t happen to me but from me, and it reveals that there’s a problem, a big problem, and that is my own broken mind and hardened heart.

a681fcf2d2b4f40f6ec22d4e4cfe80a6When my eye catches that Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram post, when one of my friends gets the very thing I’ve wanted, the smile on my face vanishes, because I see myself—once again—as the one who wasn’t chosen. The heartbeat that otherwise thumps along, peaceful and serene, rises when someone else gets the attention I so crave. So often my mind creates these storylines that aren’t real and simultaneously swallows them, hook, line, and sinker. 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 needed to fix this problem–my mind–is also being held captive by the problem.

I need another storyline, a true storyline.

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 word of the Gospel is the sword that pierces perceived reality and makes way for actual reality to enter. 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. Forgive me, a sinner; forgive me, I’m jealous! In hearing–shema hearing, deep-down-in-my-heart-hearing–what is real, my false storylines begin to unravel. In hearing what is real, I’m given new language, language that 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 heel of Him who has crushed it’s head (Gen 3).

Wrapped up in the true storyline that is Jesus Christ and His 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 storyline of Christ, we are swept into the arms of a very loving and jealous-for-us God, given the freedom to confess our jealousy. Wrapped up in the storyline 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)