Tonight we met with our small group and talked about idolatry…I know, lighthearted conversation for a Tuesday evening But in all seriousness, it feels important to remind ourselves about this kind of thing in our daily lives–especially amongst people who know us well and who will hold us accountable to the conversations we have together. We’ve been working through a study by Tim Keller called The Gospel in Life, and every other week, we focus on a different aspect of the Gospel as it applies to everyday faith.
After watching this week’s video, we talked about what idols can look like in our lives–and not just what they might be, but why they’re idols for us. We discussed things like family and children, work, finances, worry and stress, and the ways that each could be considered stumbling blocks that stand in the way of us pursuing Christ as our “overmastering, positive passion.” It’s hard to capture the meat of our conversation here in one post, but the underlying takeaway for me is that we all have things in our lives–big and small, that can get in the way of us fully embracing an overmastering, positive passion for Christ. In some cases, those things are our jobs, or our level of stress because of our jobs. In other situations, we might idolize our worries and fears about the future by letting them get in the way of an opportunity to instead pray about the future. For me, as of late, I’m finding that details about the baby, the nursery, and our impending labor and delivery have become idols in some way–things that distract me from focusing on my understanding of Christ and what He is able to do, and also from my dependency on Him to know what’s best for me, for us, and for our first days and weeks as a family of three.
I’d love to go deeper here and expound more on my thoughts after tonight’s conversation, but I’m still trying to process what God is working on in me after our time together this evening. I know that there’s a lot of freedom to be discovered in naming our idols and making a commitment to give them over to God. And when we practice this, as hard as it may be at first, God honors our willingness to truthfully relinquish the things we’ve been clinging most tightly to–and He’s able to do more with them as a result.
In rough patches over the past few years, I’ve headed out the beach in search of peace and quiet and revelation, and I’ve begun a practice that makes surrender a very tangible thing in my mind. I run my fingers through the sand, pick up a handful and cling tightly to it. After a while, my hand gets tired, and the sand gets uncomfortable there. Then I take a new handful and hold my palm open, allowing the grains to fall freely between my fingers and back to the earth; this is a blissful feeling as the wind blows sand in light streams from my fingertips. I’m no longer at all in control of how much will remain or how much will fall to the ground. As I do this, I have a little conversation with God, renewing my commitment to letting something go and leaving it in His hands to look after. The practice is so refreshing, and I’ve experienced great breakthrough (sometimes almost immediately, and other times after a season of waiting) when I’ve truly focused my heart on God instead of on the issue I’m facing. I leave my “idol” at the beach, to be sifted through and fine-tuned and buried by a loving God who longs to see me free of the burden and worry I would otherwise unnecessarily carry.
I think this is why the Gospel warns so strongly against idolatry, and also why it so regularly encourages us to “cast our cares upon Him.” Not only is God a righteously selfish God who deserves all of our undivided attention, but He is a loving God who desires to bring us to freedom in Him and in His care for us. We have choices to make daily that can align us with this freedom He’s offering, and we can miss the blessing if we don’t see the promise of the greatest alternative ever afforded us as humans; we can cling tightly to all of the things we are ultimately unable to control, or we can recognize our limitations without Christ and subsequently, pursue an overmastering, positive passion for Him that gives us more peace, more clarity and more assurance than we ever knew was possible on our own.
needing to pay the beach another visit,