It was teddy bear carnage at the Wookey Hall Caves, a teddy bear museum in western England. In the summer of 2006, a doberman pinscher guard dog named Barney “just went berserk.” In an evening rampage, Barney shredded about 100 of the bears on display. But what really got everyone’s attention was that he tore apart Mabel — Elvis Presley’s teddy bear.
Mabel at that time was owned by an English aristocrat named Benjamin Slade who lived close to the museum. He had reportedly paid something like $75,000 for the bear at a Memphis auction and then loaned it to Wookey Hall Caves. The museum’s general manager, Daniel Medley, reported: “I had a very embarrassing phone call with the owner. He’s not very happy at all.”
What would possess Barney the guard dog to become so angry? To be so violent? The dog’s handler, Greg West, speculated that it might have been either a “rogue scent” that “switched on Barney’s deepest instincts, or it could have been jealousy,” because, according to West, “I was stroking Mabel and saying what a nice little bear she was.”
At any rate, West spent several minutes chasing Barney before he could wrestle him to the ground and end the canine’s act of vengeance. Photos of the dog after he had been quieted showed him sitting on his haunches and looking very contrite. No dogs are allowed now at Wookey Hall Caves.
What are the triggers that send us into a rampage? What releases our anger and desire for revenge? Is it jealousy over the strokes that someone else got? More importantly, who do we damage when we lose control? More than likely, it’s something more valuable than a teddy bear.
Jealousy is an interesting subject. When we think about it, what comes to our mind? Is it a jealous husband who goes into a rage over his flirtatious wife’s seemingly harmless meanderings? Or is it the fuming employee who is irate over the boss giving undue attention to a co-worker rather than to herself? Perhaps our version of jealousy is more sports-oriented. Like the basketball player who is upset because his teammate continues to shoot the ball instead of passing it to his teammates. Or the football player who gets mad because the quarterback always seems to throw to the other receivers instead of him.
One of the most common forms of jealousy these days, tragically, it seems, comes into families who have experienced the life trauma called divorce. The jealousy of one spouse over the money spent by the other previously-divorced spouse to support the first marriage is an all-too-common occurrence these days and adds a tremendous amount of stress to the current relationship.
I suppose the examples could go on and on, but the one example that really concerns me is the example of God being jealous. The other day, I was reading in Exodus 34 about God’s jealousy: “You must worship no other gods, but only the Lord, for he is a God who is passionate about his relationship with you.” (Exodus 34:14) The word translated in the New Living translation as “passionate” is the word that means “jealous”. In this verse, the simple point is this: God is jealous over the fact that we as human beings tend to worship other gods. He does not like it. He will not tolerate it – for long or forever. And he will judge it. And like the Doberman’s rage over the attention paid to a teddy bear, God will deal severely with us when we bow down to other idols.
The question for you and for me this week is simply what idols am I harboring in my heart and bowing down to in place of worshipping the God of all creation and the Lord of life itself? Is it money? Is it greed? Is it family or children? Is it your home? Your cars? Is it your boyfriend or girlfriend? Or is it your job and your position within your company? Do any of these or perhaps some other “idol” I have not mentioned cause you to think more about them than you do about God?
In all my years in ministry, I would have to say that although a great many people give lip service to God, most of us have some other thing that is diverting our thoughts and our lives away from worshipping Him fully. My friends, this ought not so to be. God wants your full attention. And if He does not get it, He will act. He will simply take His hand of protection off of you, and allow the enemy of your soul free reign in your life, your job, your bank account, your family, your whatever it takes to regain and re-establish your full attention on Him. God is a jealous God. He will not be compromised. His altar will not be shared with some other “god” of your own choosing or making.
I don’t know about you, but I want my God to be a passionate God, and especially about his relationship with me. That promises a lot of potential. And I am convinced that is the reason why the Apostle John wrote to those first century Christians (and vicariously to you and to me): “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21) He wants us to experience completely all the fullness that God Himself has to offer – and without the judgment that will come if we don’t.
God is not a doberman. But God is a jealous God. He wants a relationship with you. Won’t you trust Him completely today?
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor. He can be reached at [email protected]