Where is your heart this morning? Not the beating one, pumping blood around your body (I’m hoping that is in your chest as it should be). I mean the one that contains your loves, your desires, your treasures. Since becoming a mum, I often feel so full of protective love for my family that I sometimes feel my flesh tugging my heart towards them more than to God. When this starts to happen, I feel my fears for them increase and my trust of God decrease. Know what I mean?
In 1 John 2: 15-17 we read,
But doesn’t God want us to love the world as he does? After all, “for God so loved the world…” (John 3:16). He does want us to love the world. What he doesn’t want, is for us to be devoted to a world where he is not honoured or treasured (see James 4:4). In this passage, we see that John defines what he is talking about- ‘all that is in the world- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life’ (1 John 2:16). If our desires take the place of God or when they are not directed toward God, they become idolatrous (strong word hey!)
In the book, “Who Do You Think You Are?” (2013, Thomas Nelson), Mark Driscoll writes about idolatry in our lives and how easy it is for things of the world to creep in and take hold of our heart strings and define who we are. He gives a great little acrostic to help us remember what IDOLS can be.
Our desire for things can be a stumbling block for us. We go to the shops and look through the beautifully displayed clothes, food, furnishings and Lady Lust starts weaving her tentacles into our heart. “What we own is our public way of projective our desired image. The examples are endless…Consumer culture is so pervasive that we take it for granted, and almost no aspect of life is untouched by it. Everywhere we turn, we run into advertising telling us to buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t know…” (Driscoll, 2013, p.7).
It is so easy to fill our lives with things that we do. We feel satisfaction when we complete a task, or when we volunteer for serving others, or when we have achieved something. This has been a struggle for me stopping work and becoming a full-time mother. Somedays I don’t feel a sense of achievement and this frustrates me. I perceive motherhood too is a culturally less-than-esteemed role, being a ‘full-time mum’ does not seem like some amazing achievement, particularly when you are asked, “Yes, but what do you do during the day” or “when are you planning to go back to work?” I find it a helpful reminder- “The truth is that you’re not what you do. You have God-given natural talents, Holy Spirit-endowed gifts, and unique abilities. You also have duties, but these duties do not define you, because your identity is not determined by what you do. Rather, who you are in Christ helps you faithfully pursue your duties and use your abilities without them becoming the essence of your dignity and identity” (Driscoll, 2013, p.9).
Do we put other peoples’ opinions or relationships with others as a way that we feel valued and successful? Do we place how many Facebook friends or Blog followers as part of our identity? “This propensity to find our identity in others is commonly referred to as giving in to peer pressure, people pleasing, codependency, and having a fear of man. Practically, this explains why we’ll often change our appearance and behavior depending on whom we’re with and whom we seek to impress… This explains why some friends and family members can be so demanding, smothering, and needy. It also explains why we’re so easily inflated by praise and deflated by criticism. It’s as if others have the ability to determine our identity for that day based on a word or even a glance. In giving this power over our lives to others, we give them a god-like position to rule over us and define who we are.” (Driscoll, 2013, p.10).
What do you long for? Do you spend your days hoping and waiting for the next best thing? Sometimes, I find myself thinking… “When the kids are older, I’ll be able to have more sleep”, or “When we go on holidays, I’ll be able to have a bit more rest” or “when I return to work we will have more money”. These things I realise are me living in the future, instead of in the present. Enjoying the day I am given today, and really engaging with my God, my husband, my children and my friends in the here and now for eternity is what I am called to do. “Longings give us hope that tomorrow might be better so we can persevere today. We all have longings, but when they become the source of our identity, our life becomes inordinately governed by our feelings and our future rather than our present, and God’s past, present, and future work on our behalf” (Driscoll, 2013, p.10).
This one seems like a strange thing to have as an idol. We all dread the thought of suffering. But when we do suffer, it is often easy to wear it as a badge of honour, broadcasting our identity to others based on whatever we are going through- Cancer-survivor, enduring a long and hard pregnancy or labour, allergy-sufferer, exhausted mother. After the first year of being a mum, I realised I was saying how exhausted I was whenever someone asked how I was doing. I came to realise maybe this is just an aspect of motherhood. While it is good to share our suffering and be honest with one another, it is easy for this to become something that equates our worth- how strong and brave we are, or how hard we have things. We should be defined by Jesus, rather than by whatever hardship we are going through.
I find it a challenging list. I so often think of idols as either the Israelites worshipping the golden calf in the Old Testament, or someone over-polishing their gleaming red sports car (weird that this is the first thing that always pops into my mind when I think of idol!) Instead, it is so much more. Our love for the world and what the world has, can slowly and sneakily creep into our thinking and our hearts. Augustine once wrote, “Hold fast to Christ. For you he became temporal, so that you might partake of eternity” (Homilies on the First Epistle of John 2) Let us fix our eyes on God and worship HIM, rather than the blessings that he gives us or trials he allows for us.
photo credit: Joe Dyndale via photopin cc