Archive for the ‘Idolatry’ Category

In general Christian circles, pretty much everyone knows about the Last Night of the Church Retreat—after you’ve been having fun and then the retreat speaker drops the Serious Bomb. You make a life-changing decision, or you come closer to God than ever before, or you see things clearly for the first time. Or—none of that happens and you’re disappointed that it didn’t. As something of a contrarian, I often roll my eyes at the idea … until guess what?

Yep, it happened to me.

I got back yesterday from a weekend church retreat, and although the whole deal fell short of what I would personally call “fun” (I am quite literally not a happy camper), I had an incredible spiritual experience that left me very, very glad that I had gone. I hesitated to share it on this blog because it is very personal. But I shared it on my private blog , and several people have already thanked me for doing so. One friend said that I had pointed out how something in the Old Testament is relevant today. Because of that, and because someone reading this may be struggling with the same thing, I decided to just suck it up and be vulnerable.

Quick rundown: The general theme of the retreat was High School. The general lesson was about Loving God More—so simple, yet so deep. The Saturday night message, the Serious Bomb, was about the backpacks we carry, full of sin. These aren’t the backpacks that tumble off when, like in Pilgrim’s Progress, we accept Christ and His forgiveness. These are backpacks that we choose to keep on our backs, as followers of Christ, even though He has forgiven everything we’re carrying in them.

During this talk, I thought about what was in my backpack. There was plenty, of course, but I was having difficulty grasping the idea that much of it was related to one single sin. Depression isn’t necessarily a sin. Shyness isn’t necessarily a sin. What was my sin?

Finally it came to me: Idolatry. What’s the idol? Exactly what I’ve been blogging about for months: a nonexistent boyfriend. That boyfriend that I have never had, that I have wanted since at least the age of 14—and quite possibly earlier.

That alone isn’t really idolatry. A desire for intimacy and human relationships isn’t sinful—in fact, it’s usually God-given. But I was serving these desires instead of God, doing things for the idol that should have been done for God, in an attempt to bring myself closer to that idol, or to appease that idol. I mean, the main reason I had even gone on the retreat was that I know someone who met his girlfriend there last year, and maybe this was my chance. I said that I felt God calling me to move to the DC area, when I mostly just wanted to move to a place that (so I heard) was singles-friendly. (That was before I realized I wanted to marry an anti-government radical with Midwestern values.)

And yet, despite taking up so much of my energy, my time, my thoughts, and even my prayer life for a decade or more, I’ve never actually had a boyfriend. Oh, I’ve had a couple of opportunities—but I turned them down because they did not fit the image that I had created in my head. They were not the Golden Calf that I had pictured.

On Saturday night, I finally realized why God never answered my prayers. I had been asking Him to give me an idol. No matter how many times I ask Him for it, God isn’t going to give me my idol. The Bible makes it clear that God will allow us to follow idols, if that’s what we choose. Numerous times in the Bible, God handed the Israelites over to the idols they had chosen to worship.

Nehemiah 9:26-28: But they were disobedient and rebelled against You; they put Your law behind their backs. They killed Your prophets, who had admonished them in order to turn them back to You; they committed awful blasphemies. So You handed them over to their enemies, who oppressed them. But when they were oppressed they cried out to You. From heaven You heard them, and in Your great compassion You gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the hand of their enemies.

Ezekiel 20:31: When you offer your gifts—the sacrifice of your sons in the fire—you continue to defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. Am I to let you inquire of Me, O house of Israel? As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I will not let you inquire of Me.

Isaiah 57:13: When you cry out for help, let your collection of idols save you! The wind will carry all of them off, a mere breath will blow them away. But the man who makes Me his refuge will inherit the land and possess My holy mountain.

God doesn’t supply the idols. He is not going to fulfill desires that will take us away from Him.

Exodus 34:14: Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

I Corinthians 10:13: No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

I finally realized that my identity had not been in Christ, but in the idol I was pursuing. It was like I had spent years running down a tunnel, chasing a distant light, until I collapsed under the weight of this “backpack.” And then God came up to me with a lantern, asking if I was ready to walk with Him, at the pace He would set. I finally said “Yes,” and meant it.

Saturday night’s lesson ended with a reexamination of the story of the Prodigal Son, which had never meant more to me than it did on that day. Things may not have gotten easier yet, but they’re better, and my outlook is more positive than it was. My Father is cooking that fatted calf to welcome back His prodigal.

So, this being a blog about singleness, for single women, I have to ask: might this be a problem for you, as well? I’m not saying that if you’re single and unhappy about it, you must be an idolater as I had been. But do consider examining and possibly rethinking 1. your motives, 2. your priorities, and 3. where you are finding your identity. Are you living your life secure in your identity as a servant, a lover, and a daughter of Christ? Or are you drawing your identity from something else?

What’s your golden calf?


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