(Originally written in 2011. Particularly relevant to me this week as I am working on that “undivided heart” thing from Sunday.)
As a child, I remember hearing Old Testament stories and being perplexed at the idea of idols. I couldn’t fathom grown ups bowing down to worship statues and golden cows. It was preposterous! The command was clear… don’t have any other gods. And Israel (the nation that was supposed to be God’s) was clearly, blatantly, disobedient.
As an adult, I find it much easier to relate to the Israelites. “Well, God sure is taking a long time answering this prayer,” I’ll say to myself, then I’ll look around and see what shiny thing catches my attention. Don’t get me wrong, I still want Jesus, but my sentences start to have a lot of “Jesus ands” in them. As in, “I’ll have enough as long as I have Jesus and ___.” Or “I’ll be happy as long as I have Jesus and ___.” In high-school, it was often Jesus and my good reputation. In college, it was Jesus and my new relationships or Jesus and my own particular way of understanding and living faith. At one point, my “and”, my idol, became ministry. Something good, something important, but something that Jesus had to dethrone because it was dividing my affections and loyalties.
As a young adult, it’s easy to think that all will be well as long as I have Jesus and guaranteed job security or Jesus and my degrees or Jesus and somebody who really understands me. The fact remains, as easy as any of these statements might be to believe, they are simply not true. The command is clear… love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. And I (the one who is supposed to be God’s) am clearly, blatantly disobedient.
The “ands” that are hardest to dislodge aren’t specific to one particular situation or stage of life, though. You know the ones. They are the ones that seem to keep growing—consuming your time, your attention, your money. They are the ones that you shove back into the dark corners of your mind because you’re scared that if you dare speak their name, your secret will be out.
When I think of these idols in my life, I’m reminded of the story of the Philistines (1 Samuel 5). They had captured the ark of the covenant (the Old Testament symbol of God’s presence), so they carried it back to the temple of their god, Dagon. They left it there and went home for the night. The next morning, Dagon had fallen down before the ark. Undeterred, they picked him up and put him right back in his place. I do this sometimes, don’t you? “Oops, God,” I’ll say, “that must have been an accident. You know that I love you, and this isn’t really such a bad thing, right?” I’ll dust it off and put it right back in its place.
But this was no mistake. The next morning, Dagan was again on the floor, but this time his head and his hands had been broken off. He was beyond repair. Are you scared that if you speak your secret, your “and”, God will smash it smithereens? I’m scared too. I don’t like smashing. But our God is jealous. Just as God wouldn’t share the temple with Dagon, he wants our undivided attention, our undivided loyalty and our undivided devotion. He wants us to love him enough, to trust him enough, to give him our “ands.” All of them.
What if when we sang about laying down our dreams, our rights, our pride, we dared to turn the light on those dark corners? What if we dared to speak the name of our “ands”? What if we dared to denounce our idols and commit again to serving God alone? I’m not sure what would happen (and I think it would likely involve smashing). But I’m ready to give it a try. Are you?