Markers

I was thinking this morning about markers. Not pens. I mean the markers we use to define our lives. Specifically, success.

What has marked success for you?

What came to me was how those things that generally mark success in the world – the fame, money, popularity, etc, etc. – sound great but in the end seem to only frustrate and wear us down. As I’m writing this, the phrase in Ecclesiastes has popped into my head – “a chasing after the wind.”

Now, at 50-something, I can say that I have some wisdom in this area. But in my 20’s (and 30’s and 40’s!), I was totally convinced that those very markers were vital to my personal well being. To put it bluntly, not reaching them would mean I was a loser at life.

Here’s just a sampling of my early success markers:

  • World-wide fame and universal love for my performing
  • Lots of money for stuff
  • An executive position at a totally fulfilling job
  • Tons of friends, men admirers and fans

Quite a list, huh? Pie-in-the-sky dreams. But they reflected the best of what the world had to offer. I truly thought marking those items off my list would add to my confidence and self esteem. I would then become a more secure and better person.

As my pastor sometimes says, I “drank the cultural kool aid.”

I understand how it happened: as a child I learned that to be accepted was many times dependent on impressing others. And the world offered all sorts of glittery, shiny markers to prove my worth. Suffering from low self esteem and an overambitious nature, I really applied myself to the task.

You can guess how well all that striving worked for me.

So if those don’t work, what will? Well, I finally asked what God’s markers are for success. The basic list is pretty short:

  • Love and Worship Him
  • Love His people
  • Repeat daily

I was excited this morning to realize that over the last few years God has taken those old markers and filtered them through His. Let me share my new list:

  • Bless others with my gifts
  • Have enough money to take care of my family and faithfully give
  • Work with excellence wherever He puts me
  • Serve others and help them know how special they are

How has God redefined success for you?

Our Jealous God

I’ve struggled with the idea of God being jealous.  Jealousy and envy seem like such human, base emotions – beneath God, in a way. But scripture tells and shows us examples where God expresses them.

I think part of my trouble in grasping this has been that I’ve defined jealousy by my own experience of it. I found these synonyms in my Roget’s Thesaurus – “envious, grudging, jaundiced” – and could immediately relate to them. I know all too clearly how jealousy toward a person or prize eats away my self-esteem. And after each episode, I’ve ended up both resentful and a little ashamed. 

Is that what God goes through when he feels jealousy? No – I believe His experience is vastly different. For one thing, my own bouts with jealousy are rooted in insecurity – someone else has or is what I think I need. God is complete, and has no need of anything. He is totally secure. Also, to be honest, my longings are self-centered – the object of my ‘affection’ will benefit me first. In contrast, God’s longings are for our good: freely giving grace and peace to us, and making our lives better by His presence.  

The Merriam-Webster definition of “jealous” paints a powerful picture: “intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness” and “vigilant in guarding a possession.” This evokes an image of God watching over and protecting something He already has and greatly cherishes. Rather than trying to grab hold of something out of fear or lack, God reaches down with deep love from a place of strength. 

It turns out, the real struggle for me in looking at God’s jealousy isn’t in accepting that He feels it, but in accepting that the Lord of the Universe loves and desires me that much.