I am sick. As inconvenient and annoying as this is, I generally appreciate the time being sick gives me to reflect on life… and catch up on my Hulu TV shows 🙂 I was watching the most recent Office episode (“Sex ed”) where Michael calls up each woman he’s ever been with (in order to tell them they might have an std), and ends up exploring the fractures of each relationship. They all say he idealized the relationship, making it into something it wasn’t. He calls up girl after girl, and he realizes that those relationships weren’t what he thought they were, even with Holly, who was briefly in his life and has been seeing someone else for over a year.
He struggles with this shift in reality, and even though he comes to the conclusion that most of his former relationships weren’t what he thought they were, he can’t let go of Holly, and tells her she’s wrong, that they did have something.
I pretty much had two initial reactions to this scenario. 1) It challenged me to consider relationships that I have been in and how I think about them. For me, it’s so easy to want to justify the relationship by saying it was something significant… when it probably wasn’t. 2) I also know what it’s like from the opposite perspective, and it’s daunting to see such a gap between two accounts, the truth probably lying somewhere in between.
For the former, the reason why I idealized those relationships is because I idolized those people, as well as the relationship itself. Quite frankly, it’s a blessing to not be there because most of the time I didn’t see it for what it was until it was out-of-my-control gone, or until I recognized the huge hole left in my satisfaction without them. In a culture that glorifies relationships and pleasure, it saddens me to think that I’m just as guilty for pursuing relationships and pleasure in lieu of THE relationship and THE pleasure of eternity- joy and satisfaction in God.
As if that weren’t enough to drive the point home, I read the book of Hosea again yesterday and today. It was one of those sweet reminders not to separate my heart from my actions, but to see my actions as an accurate indicator of my heart. “Their deeds do not permit them to return to God. A spirit of prostitution is in their heart; they do not acknowledge the Lord.” Hosea 5:4
Basically, Israel has once again fallen in love with things other than God. This devotion, this “spirit of prostitution in their heart” prevents them from being satisfied in the Lord. Ok, so prostitution sounds harsh. But think of it this way: If you were married, yet you had another girlfriend or boyfriend you just made out with from time to time, would the term “adultery” seem so harsh to you? Not really. Israel struggles with the same thing we do- they say “Oh Lord, you are wonderful” and then waltz off and do the complete opposite. It can seem as innocuous as loving another person, but anything that gets in the way of your relationship with God is an idol.
Furthermore, on Sunday I visited a baptist church in rural Iowa, and the message was a guest speaker who talked about idols. He talked about the progression of an idol. 1) It begins as an idea of desire. It is, at its core, the concept of pleasing oneself at the expense of others. 2)The desire becomes a demand (ie. I “deserve” this, I “earned” this, etc.). Ask yourself what you are preoccupied with, what you think of when you first wake up and go to sleep, or what you think you’d need in order to be happy. It’s interesting to pinpoint what we spend our thoughts on. 3)We judge and condemn others when they fail to satisfy our desires or live up to our expectations. I love the quote that goes along with this:
“We judge others—criticize, nit-pick, nag, attack, condemn— because we literally play God. This is heinous. [The Bible says]”There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you to judge your neighbor?” Who are you when you judge? None other than a God wannabe. In this, we become like the Devil himself (no surprise that the Devil is mentioned in James 3:15 and 4:7). We act exactly like the adversary who seeks to usurp God’s throne and who acts as the accuser of the brethren. When you and I fight, our minds become filled with accusations: your wrongs and my rights preoccupy me. We play the self-righteous judge in the mini-kingdoms we establish.” ~David Powlison
4) We punish. This means treating others under the judgement we have already put on them. When we can’t get what we want, or what our idols demand, it quickly turns sour. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we punish people to try and get them to play to our demands.
So what do you do once you’ve identified an idol? Repent. Change your mind and turn around. Human repentance is “sorry I got caught.” Godly repentance is “Sorry I’ve sinned against God and man. By His grace and through His power, I can move on and not repeat my actions/attitudes.” Identify what gets in the way of worshipping God, and eliminate it.
This was definitely something that convicted, challenged, and encouraged me to keep seeking after God, and to not overlook my actions and attitudes as separate from my heart.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” ~Deuteronomy 6:4-5
P.S. If you want to see a better version of my summary of the progression of an idol, see here.