I stood at the door once again. I could hear the dog on the other side barking, and he didn’t sound as evil as everyone was making him out to be. I could even hear an occasional whimper as he begged me to open the door. Maybe this time it would be different, I told myself. Maybe this time, the dog and I could find a way to live in peace together. I heard the voices of my friends begging me not to do it again, and I remembered the pain I brought on myself and those around me the last time. But I just had to know if this dog and I could be friends. Maybe this time it wouldn’t be so bad; maybe this time it would be different. Surely, it couldn’t be as bad as before. So my hand reached for the door knob, and I opened the door.
The innocent whimper turned into a ferocious growl, and I felt the pain shooting up through my leg once again. I looked down to see this bulldog holding my leg in his teeth, trying in vain to take me down. I beat him off and chased him back out the door. I turned my attention to my leg and tried to get the throbbing to stop. I looked up at the sky and said, “You were right. It was really stupid to open the door. I’m sorry.”
So before you get too worried about my leg and start to question my sanity, the above story is a picture I heard Dr. Neil T. Anderson present in a message at New Hope Community Church in Nashville, TN. He was talking about the difference between confession and repentance.
Confession is agreeing with God that what we did was wrong. It was wrong for me to open the door to the barking dog who represents that nagging sin, behavior or addiction that just won’t go away and I can’t seem to stop. Repentance is changing my behavior and not opening the door. He talked about setting boundaries and changing behavior patterns so that we stayed out of situations that were tempting.
As he spoke, I knew exactly what my barking dog was. Her name was “jealousy.” I had tried to stop being jealous of other people and wanting what they had. I had confessed to my friends and to my husband whenever I felt jealous. And the question I wrote in my notes was “How do I stop opening the door to Jealousy?”
Sometimes when your barking dog is an addiction, it seems easier to identify what makes you open the door. It’s going to a certain corner to find your drug or staying out of certain places to keep you from drinking. It’s putting a filter on the computer or deleting a phone number from your phone. I thought Jealousy was a different kind of dog, but I discovered she wasn’t so different after all.
As I started journaling about why I kept opening the door, I realized that the root was a lack of contentment. I realized that when I pictured standing at the door, I was in a closet, a tiny, stuffy, going-nowhere, full of nothing closet. And I wanted something more. I thought that “something more” was just beyond the door, so I reached for the door knob. Sure, I might have to put up with some barking and some dog bites, but it would be worth it to get to “something more.” And I kept opening the door and kept being jealous.
Then God showed me what was true. I wasn’t standing in a closet. I was standing in a big open space with no limits. I was standing in “something more” already, and the dog Jealousy was locked in a closet. All I had to do was turn around and see the family, the friends, the house, the ministry that God had already given to me on my side of the door. When I was so focused on chasing “something more,” I forgot about all that God had already given. All I had to do was turn around and repent.
And so I prayed a Princess prayer to ask God to help me be content on my side the door. To be grateful for what I already had. I needed to trust that he was big enough and strong enough to bring whatever I needed to my side of the door. He didn’t even have to go through the door; he could have it helicopter lifted in if he wanted to. He could make it magically appear, even if I never opened the door with the barking dog on the other side.
So what do you need to trust him for on your side of the door? Can he bring you the husband, the love, the attention you desire? Can he heal your pain so that you don’t have to hurt anymore? Can he bring you peace and hope outside of the other things you run to when you feel depressed? Can he provide for your financial needs even if you don’t reach for the credit cards? Will you trust him to bring it to your side of the door and stop reaching for something more?
I can’t say that I’m not jealous any more, but I can say that it has been a long time, which is about the best that any addict can hope for. When I confessed that I was focusing on the wrong things and began to turn around and focus on other things, that barking dog wasn’t as loud as she was before. I’ve learned that the root of all our reaching is a desire for something more, whether we are reaching for love in an illegitimate relationship or reaching for happiness at the bottom of a bottle. This desire can only be satisfied in a relationship with Jesus. And that’s not a band-aid or a nice Christian phrase. It’s the gut-wrenching, heart-pounding truth.