Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

I am always surprised when the J monster slithers under the back door of my heart. One moment I am enjoying a friendship, and the next my heart tightens and races as if it has been poisoned. I feel the beast climbing up my throat, threatening to choke out our conversation. I shake my head, trying to shake loose of its grip. I leave the moment in a fog, asking myself, Where did that come from?

But once it’s in, the J monster likes to stick around. It likes to sleep on the couch and eat my leftovers, crowding me out of my peace and forcing me into the back rooms of my heart, pacing back and forth in small spaces, focusing on minutiae. The monster grows, and there is less and less of me: less love, less truth, and more anger and fear and loathing. Pretty soon, the monster is so large it’s infected my head, running old tapes, old justifications, old vindications . . . and all that I can think of is how I want what you have, what you are, what you love, what you do. There is no room in my heart for you now. There’s barely room for me anymore.

Our friendship suffers, and the monster can give me a million reasons why. But I hate this feeling, and so one day I pray about it. Why, I ask God, am I taken over by this feeling? Where did it come from? This isn’t how I want to feel, and it’s certainly going to kill my friendships. I give Him a million reasons why this other person doesn’t deserve, or shouldn’t have, more than me. Why shouldn’t I have the same, Lord? Why do you withhold these things from me and give them to her? (I say her because, let’s face it, I can’t remember the last time I was jealous of a man. I am a woman, and I long for the same things all women want.)

After my prayerful demands for equanimity, for all to share my pains and their gains, things quiet down in my heart. I pang in conviction as truth permeates: my jealousy has nothing to do with anyone but me. It has nothing to do with what anyone else has, or what anyone else has deprived me of. Instead, my monster is me, the lacks and the holes and the wounds of me. My monster grows as I continue to focus externally at a world that will never heal me. My monster infests my spirit because I will not submit that spirit to God. Period.

As I pray more, I also understand that jealousy, if left unchecked, will turn my world two-dimensional. People become checklists of things I should have. I become a checklist of deficits. Everyone is dehumanized and more easily brutalized. It is easier to write off a checklist than a living, breathing human being. It is easier to dismiss someone whose beautiful house and skin tone and van full of healthy, living children become a list of things I don’t have. But, that leaves me alone because every woman I know has something I don’t. Everyone has; I stand alone in lack. I stand alone in my entitlement, my anger, my sin. I am alone. All because you have something I don’t?

I am learning that when I feel that J monster staking out the back door of my heart, I must run to the Father. My first question must be, “Lord, what is going on in me? What about this loved one is pricking some wounded area of my heart?” And then, when I have identified the area of my heart that needs addressing, “How can I heal that area with Your help?”

In 2013, I focused exclusively on the deepest wounds of my heart. Through prayer and therapy, I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned that what someone else may trigger in me rarely has to do with the surface issue. For instance, my insecurity over “just being a stay at home mom” has never really been about being a stay at home mom. I am proud of the job I do for my family. The real issue was much deeper, much more about feeling as though I was missing my calling. It’s funny how entering a writing contest and writing this blog has bound up that festering wound and allowed me to feel so much more content in my job as a stay at home mom. (FORWARD)

We’re not going to be “fixed” all at once. And I know I’m never going to “have it all.” But when I’m in touch with my own needs and working on them, I fight the J monster so much less frequently. As I care for my self better and better, I am more at peace, and more genuinely happy for others as they flourish in God’s plan for their lives. I love this passage from Psalm 4:6-8:

Many, LORD, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?”
Let the light of your face shine on us.
Fill my heart with joy
when their grain and new wine abound.
In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, LORD,
make me dwell in safety.

Slaying the dragon, healing the wounds . . . Forward.