Thursday, July 2, 2009

My Personal Idol

So I was reading my rote one chapter of Jeremiah as my devotions this morning, and something hit hard with me in this chapter. Jeremiah 16:18 reads

"I will repay them double for their wickedness and their sin, because they have defiled my land with the lifeless forms of their vile images and have filled my inheritance with their detestable idols."

Now normally when I read about idolatry, the "spiritually open, vulnerable and receptive" part of my brain just sort of checks out on a lunchbreak. If you think of it as approaching the Bible with a checklist in hand, you could say I normally just put a check down for the "idolatry" item and say "Nope, I'm good in this area." I would guess most of us tend to think that way. The way the Bible describes idols, they seem pretty basic: a hunk of wood or stone, carved into some weird shape, and put in a temple or shrine or on a hill and bowed down to and offered gifts. I don't know about you, but I'm past my "bow down to statues" phase. No... I'm serious, I did have that phase; in high school I was a Wiccan for a brief period and had a statue of "the Goddess" in one of her three forms, which I burnt incense to and prayed in front of her little shrine at least once a day. Sounds pretty hardcore, huh? Looking back now, it feels foolish, the way I sat there in my little ritualistic setup hoping and pleading with a ceramic bauble to do something in my life to make me happier, prettier, more successful. It was just a trinket my mom bought me, but I put all my hopes on it to be my god.

I guess that's why when I read in the Bible about idol worship, I tend to check out, because I assume that once I came over to the one true God who needs no statue or incense or magical candle circle to answer prayer, I was past the idolatry phase. It wasn't a problem anymore. I had outgrown that particular temptation. And, in a way, I was right. I have moved on past that specific form of idolatry. Meaning I no longer believe that inanimate odds and ends will be able to do anything more powerful in my life than look good on a bare shelf. That form of idolatry has been beaten out of my life. The temptation is more subtle now.

Looking at this verse, though, the subtlety seemed to ebb away like a thin veil, and God suddenly revealed to me how idolatry is still in my life. He speaks in that verse of how the Israelites have defiled his land and inheritance with their idol worship. Hold on: let's backtrack. That wasn't him talking about their land and inheritance. It was his. Where they lived and the things they had may have been on loan to them, but they still came from and belonged to God. And they just didn't seem to get it when He told them he could take it away if they didn't stop worshipping their idols. This got me thinking: what is the "land" and "inheritance" God has given me? Well, there's the usual Christian list of "thank-you card prayer" fillers: a place to live, food to eat, a good family, etc. But how about the things that really matter to me? Stuff like my money, or even my time? I tend to forget about these things, because in truth, they seem a little abstract. Especially time.

One doesn't usually think of time as a thing that is given. It's more like something that is just there, though there never seems to be enough of it there. You ever get that feeling? How many people do you hear who talk about how busy they are, how there's never enough time in the day to get everything done. Here's the kicker: how many of them use that as an excuse for why they aren't spending time with God? ::sheepishly raises hand::

So I started thinking about how this "time being an inheritance from God" factored into idol worship. Now my track record isn't too great. I tend to have an on and off relationship with my Bible. Meaning I'll read it a chapter a day for about three days, then something comes up, I get busy, or bored, or sick, and decide I can just "do it later". Three weeks later, I finally allow my built up bad-Christian guilt to drive me back to my Bible, but only long enough to take the edge off of conviction, and then something comes up again. Repeat cycle ad nauseum. A thought popped into my head this morning that seemed to point a big meaty finger directly at that not-so-bright spot on my Christian resume and say "here's your idol." Sure, I may be past the whole incense and fairy statues phase, but I'm still a big fat idol worshipper in a very subtle area (to me anyway): my time. Several times I've committed to God that I would spend some time during every day (generally the morning) reading God's word and praying and spending time with him, and it always gets crowded out by other things. Yesterday it was a migraine and several back-episodes of Buffy. The day before that, maybe babysitting or cleaning house. And before that? Ministry, not kidding. But that time that I promised God, it's not mine. He gave it to me, and I dedicated it back to him. It is his inheritance, his property. And I have filled it with every manner of "vile images" and "detestable idols." And, maybe this is a little extreme, but who's to say He isn't getting just as frustrated with me as he was when the Israelites were doing the same thing during Jeremiah's time? Who's to say he isn't getting very close to taking away this time that he has gifted to me? Ever notice that the moment you start enjoying some free time, it seems to go by even faster? I wonder if that isn't just an impression, but God trying to speak to us. Is my constant brush off during the "morning dates" I've promised him resulting in my to-do list getting longer and longer and my goals getting more and more distant? It sounds a little off the wall, but it could be true.

Either way, I've promised Him that time, and it's about time I stop filling it with detestable idols and start making good on my word. For me, this means I’m going to start picking a time every day and spending the full amount of it in the Word and in prayer, even if it means I have to go OCD on myself and set a timer. For you it may mean you need to start thinking of that quiet time as a quality time for you to spend listening to God rather than asking Him for favors. Or maybe it means you need to start thinking about starting a quiet time, or put more priority on your time with him than on your massive to-do list (trust me, I understand how hard that is). But personally, I’m going to trust that God will remain true to His character. After all, he’s never let me down before. And when he says that if I stop misusing the gifts he gives, then he won’t take them away, I’m going to believe Him. And as an added plus, maybe I’ll actually have more time in the day for homework and housekeeping and fun. It’s worth a try.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post. As you know, I am not religious or spiritual, but you write with a lot of charisma and it almost sounds like one of those really nice motivational sermons. I like the idea of being mindful of how you spend your time. Maybe time should have a cost-benefit analysis like money, and we should invest it in activities that are really important to us, as opposed to all this "filler" that we let distract us.