Idols of the Heart

Golden Calf
The story of the Golden Calf is found in Exodus 32:1–6.

Recently, I re-read the story in the Bible when the children of Israel, after having seen the astounding power of God through several miraculous signs and miracles, fashion a golden calf and bow down and worship it. WHY?! Why, after seeing with their own eyes how God delivered them from the ten plagues (which only affected the Egyptians) and then experiencing the marvelous wonder that was the parting of the Red Sea, walking across dry land, and watching Pharaoh’s army drown beneath the waves? How could they turn their back on God and turn to a god of their own making?

Moses was up on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments, written by the finger of God. He was gone for 40 days. Meanwhile, the Israelites were lowkey freaking out because they thought that Moses had deserted them or maybe even died. They hadn’t seen the power of God in a while and maybe they thought God had left them, too. They began to worry what would happen to them without Moses leading them so in their anxiousness, they made a god they could see. That was comfortable for them and familiar to them since they were accustomed to having visual representations of gods when they were in bondage in Egypt for the last 200 years.

Idols of the Heart

We may not physically worship a golden idol in 2020, but how many of us have lost trust in God’s provision and committed the sin of worry just like the Israelites did? Right now, everyone is totally freaking out that they will starve to death or have nothing to wipe their bums because neither toilet paper, napkins, diaper wipes, nor tissues can be found in any store near or far. #CoronaVirus

There is another story in the Bible about a beautiful, elegant woman who gained favor wherever she went due to her extravagant beauty. Her beauty was her power and a man named Jacob fell in love with her at first sight.

Rachel Hides the Idols

The story of Rachel stealing the idols can be found in Genesis 31.

One day, Jacob told Rachel that they were leaving to a far off place. Rachel began to worry about what that might mean. She was moving away from where she grew up, leaving behind her family and everything she knew. She began to panic. What did she do? She went through a lot of trouble to secretly steal her father’s household idols. Then she lied about it and hid them. What does this reveal about Rachel’s heart? She didn’t trust Yahweh to protect and provide for her away from home. She felt she needed the comfort that her father’s idols brought.

Rachel longed with all her being to be a mother. Back then, women did not have much use except to give birth to sons. Rachel had been used to being the favorite her entire life, but now she saw that her sister Leah was gaining all the favor. She said to Jacob, “GIVE ME CHILDREN OR ELSE I’LL DIE!” (As if Jacob were the one in control of her womb.) Jacob’s response was, “What, am I God?” He knew that it was God and only God who opens and closes the womb. Rachel began to feel worthless and her barrenness was an ugliness she could not bear. She sank into deep depression and allowed her desire for motherhood to twist her thinking. She complained and pouted and felt, “Woah is me, it’s not fair.” But even in the midst of her unbelief, God graciously opened Rachel’s womb and gave her a son. Was Rachel thankful?

She named her son Joseph which means “May Jehovah increase.” She wanted MORE. She wasn’t satisfied. Isn’t that the root of idolatry? We aren’t content with what we have. We always want MORE MORE MORE. Rachel thought that having children would bring her the joy she so desperately craved, but once God ended her infertility, she still wasn’t happy.

What Rachel thought would bring her blessing and favor eventually ended up bringing her death. She did end up having another son, but she died in the process of childbirth. Right before she gave up she spirit, she named her son Benoni which means “Son of my Sorrow.” (Jacob ended up changing his name to Benjamin meaning “Son of my Right Hand.”)

rachelbirth

What idols are lurking in the dark corners of my heart? An idol is anything that my heart longs for in order to make my life seem meaningful and happy. An idol is anything I desire other than God that allows me to seem like I am doing alright and everything is going to be okay. An idol is anything I trust in outside of God to give me what I need. An idol is anything that I am willing to sin in order to obtain or anything I do as an act of pouting because I can’t have my way or anything that I seek to bring me which only God can supply. An idol is anything that absorbs my affections and imaginations more than God. An idol is anything I invest my identity in.  For Rachel, her identity was in having children, and she ultimately died for want of it.

“A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.”

-Tim Keller

How often I find myself utterly frustrated because I haven’t found a job in months. I have experienced rejection after rejection and it’s so easy to apply those rejections to my self-worth and feel less than. I have believed that if I just keep working hard enough, applying to as many positions as I can, then eventually I will reap the benefits of my hard work and finally gain employment. That has not been the case. If I’m operating out of fear or believing that I have the power to manipulate outcomes, then I am not trusting in God alone to provide for my needs. I am making having a job an idol in my heart.

Another idol in my heart is the intense yearning to be a wife and mother. I know that this is supposed to be my sabbatical year, but I have often caught myself saying something like, “If I am never to be married, I hope that I die young, because this cruel life will be too much to bear without someone to love.” It’s all I’ve ever really wanted anyway. I never dreamed of a fancy career, that was always my sister, not me. I just wanted to be a stay-at-home mama and homeschool my kids. I have even turned down perfectly nice gentlemen because they didn’t want a wife who homeschooled.

How can I stop worrying that I’ll never get married? The scarcity of single Christian men is sometimes all I can think about. Worry is TOXIC. It just keeps you busy doing absolutely NOTHING. It blinds us to what God has done for us and how He is working and what He will do in the future… all because we are focusing on our problem and how we are going to solve it. Self-sufficiency disables trust. The Bible says to focus our thoughts above and to seek Him first. Whenever we dwell on a thought, the more we focus on it, and the more it takes over real estate in our brain. We have to replace negative thoughts with truth. Essentially, whatever I am worrying about today is an idol that I must tear down and confess.

Father God, expose the idols in my life that are lying to me and telling me what I need to feel secure and fulfilled. I renounce all covetousness and envy of what other people have. Cut down any idols in my life. Help me not to give my fears and concerns permission to discourage me. You are the Sovereign Lord in control of all things and you have given me every tool to fight against that which tries to steal my peace. I lay down all my burdens at Your feet and I ask You Lord to give me sweet rest. Forgive me for trying to handle things on my own and help me to see my life through Your perspective, not my own. Enable me to be content with the way things are… but I also pray You grant me the desires of my heart. I ask that you conform my desires to what You want for me in this moment. Help me to take this life day by day.  In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

“The heart dies a slow death, shedding each hope like leaves…”

I was re-reading “Memoirs of a Geisha” this morning on my day off. The first time I read it was about six years ago when I was engaged to my husband. Today, for the first time, I saw a little bit of myself in the character of Sayuri and also in her mentor Mameha as they must not allow themselves to truly open themselves up to love because the jealousy of the other women their danna was with would destroy them. I came across a quote by Mameha to her protégé as she tried to teach her not to dream too big. To be practical and detached. To keep her passion under control or it would control her. “Young girls hope all sorts of foolish things, Sayuri. Hopes are like hair ornaments. Girls want to wear too many of them. When they become old women they look silly wearing even one.” After reading this passage, I put the book down and felt hopelessness over my whole situation. I wondered if I’d ever be able to have the kind of teamwork that my sister and her husband have if I am to do my duty as a Christian wife and wait to reconcile with the prodigal husband. I was hopeful for a while there that I might have a biblical reason to divorce him and find someone who will truly love me as Christ loves the church. But now I just feel empty with despair at the thought of him coming back and having to live day after day in a divided house. Jesus said “a house divided cannot stand” (Luke 11:17). I felt so lazy the rest of the day like I couldn’t do anything.133067363960558541_Tu6eZOaB_f Have you ever been debilitated by your feelings? Sometimes I feel like I’m shackled ball and chain to my feelings, incapacitated by their burden, and completely at their mercy. I don’t think feelings are necessarily good or bad but the thoughts we harbor and choices we make based on them are what either honor God or dishonor Him. I love the saying, “You can’t stop a bird from flying over your head but you can prevent it from building a nest in your hair.” In other words, if a feeling passes overhead, you can choose to let it fly by or allow it to take up permanent residence in your mind, giving it free reign over your actions. But it seems hopelessness likes to keep haunting me. My whole life has always been filled up with hopes and dreams. I was the one at birthday parties who, when everyone else was playing games like Spin the Bottle and Seven Minutes in Heaven, I was in another room of the house reading a book because my kisses were for my future husband. I wanted to give him and only him every part of me, including my first kiss.  Part of me wished to be included in the revelry and not feel left out but another part of me realized that this kind of intimacy with boys was cheap and superficial. I didn’t want to have insincere make-out sessions with boys who were meaningless to me. I wanted to be tenderly kissed by someone I deeply cared about who was as passionately devoted to me as I was to him. I saved that first kiss for years and years and gave it to my husband six months after we were engaged. I had hoped he would be not only my first kiss, but my last and my only. Is my destiny for my husband to return to me? If so, I must not ever love him too passionately or I will die a slow and painful death once more if he should choose to leave me again. If he did return, our relationship would never be the same again. It would take eons for my husband to gain back my trust.

Trust

My husband texted me yesterday that he misses me and that he was thinking of revoking the previous ultimatum that I need to give up my faith in Jesus Christ. His most recent correspondence was that maybe we can agree to disagree. I don’t like the idea of living with a man who doesn’t submit to the headship of our Savior because there are so many problems that come from a marriage where one member of the team yields to the leadership of Christ and the other does things his own way however he sees fit, ignoring the instructions from the Bible. I lived like this for three and a half years and I guess I could go back to it, but I know I’d be miserable. I could continue to try to “win my husband over with my chaste conduct” (1 Peter 3:1-2). This is what the church elders from my home church back in Connecticut advised me to do as they suppose my husband to be a believer. But what harmony can there be between us when I answer to my Father’s Word and my other half doesn’t? (2 Corinthians 6:14-15) It wasn’t working then so why would it work now? My most recent text from my husband says, “I can at least consider another go at it…” Consider. Getting back together is not definite but now, after a full year, he’s finally reevaluating his decision to leave me. If his decision had come months ago I would have been overjoyed but now I can’t help but feel a deep sense of loss for what I might have had with someone else: a godly man. I must not let myself feel so disappointed, but instead fulfill my obligation as a faithful wife and try to make the marriage work.  My pastor from Tucson thinks I should not rush back into a relationship with my husband (especially if he only wants to come back because he wants to use me a sex object.) He told me to wait for him to prove himself that he can hold down a job, stay clean, and not lay a finger on me. broken_rings I know I ought to respond with a renewed mind that aligns itself with God’s will. I can either accept these negative thoughts that come into my mind or I can refuse them. New thoughts come from new perspectives. If anything exalts itself against the knowledge of God I have to bring that thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). I do not need to be helf hostage by negative, unbiblical thoughts but instead, capture those thoughts that go against God’s Word and bring them into submission to Him. I can’t control what happens to me anymore than I can control the weather but what I can control is how I respond to these feelings. I believe there is a potential good in every situation and when I choose to dwell on God’s Sovereignty rather than a seemingly hopeless situation, I choose to rest in His grip instead of losing my grip. God has called me out of darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). The devil wants me to live in futility of thinking, embracing the darkness and all of its attitudes, perceptions presuppositions, and expectations. But those who walk in darkness are separated from God with hardened hearts, living in all kinds of impurity with a continual lust for more sin. However, as believers, we are called to be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1) and we are urged to live a life worthy of our calling (2 Thessalonians 1:11). Unbridled emotions can can be so powerful as to paralyze us with fear and rob us of peace and joy. Our thoughts directly affect our emotions but we ought not to let them manage our decisions. Feelings cannot be depended on and they don’t always tell the truth. We need to always compare our feelings with what God’s Word says. Train your feelings to serve you so you don’t become their slave.