I am one of those people who goes home after the first day of classes and writes down all the dates of all of my exams for the whole semester in my planner (hyperbole intended). I like to have advanced notice of when I will need to get my act together so that I can plan accordingly. But of course when I start to get caught up in my daily life activities I forget that I even wrote down when the exams were. Then, to my surprise, I turn over the page for the next week in my planner, and on Tuesday in bright pink reads “Neuroscience- Exam 1”.
Welp. There goes that.
My four or five-day leisurely review suddenly becomes a two-day cram session, amidst everything else that demands my attention. I could have easily avoided the pain and stress of cramming if I had just adjusted my actions when I was first warned about the exam!
I often find myself in the same position when it comes to listening to God and adjusting my actions accordingly.
Last Sunday, we had a guest pastor come and speak to our church. When he said he was going to be preaching on Exodus 20 I slumped a little bit in the pew. I didn’t want to hear another cut and dry message about the Ten Commandments. The pastor really just stuck to verses 1-6 which focus on the problem of idolatry. The last thing I thought I was struggling with was idolatry. But when I reflected a little, I noticed that the God-shaped hole in my heart had a tiny little wad of humanity shoved in it.
Surely a small cotton ball-sized item of importance wouldn’t do any damage to my relationship with God! Well, not until I began to realize that it felt good to cram in something tangible and present into the space I was supposed to be reserving for God; that’s when it got dangerous. Before I knew it, I was thinking about my idol constantly. Every other thought was concerning it and how I was going to be able to satisfy my longings and brokenness with its presence.
Long story short, I went from a moderately concerning place to a deep pit of full-blown idolatry in about a week’s time. I could tell that I wasn’t in the place I was supposed to be in relation to God because my joy and peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4 :7) had completely vanished. I found myself riding the worldly waves with crests of lackluster pleasure and troughs of dark disappointment and longing.
Thanks to a few close sisters in Christ, a lot of prayer, and a personal revelation from God’s Word, I realized that I needed to stop making excuses for my sin and begin removing the foreign substance inhabiting my heart. My idol in itself was not bad, in fact, it was a very good thing. But I took the liberty of elevating it to a role that it wasn’t created to play- that’s where things fell apart. Now looking back, I see I easily could have avoided the consuming nature of this idolatry if only I had taken heed the warning the gracious Lord presented me.
But the story doesn’t end here leaving you and me with a bitter taste of guilt in our mouths. Rather, I’m pleased to tell you that conviction stung a bit, like alcohol in a fresh wound, but it sure did clean the foreign substance out of me. Just by admitting to God that He was right, asking for forgiveness, and asking that He give me the strength to put my old idol back in the role it should be playing in my life, peace resumed its refreshing flow through my days. Thoughts no longer cluttered by idolatrous desires, I now have room to enjoy… in moderation…that gift that God had given to me without withholding the worship and praise He rightly deserves.