Saturday, September 13, 2014

Thou Shalt Have ...

Two stories.

Once upon a time, I was the mother to [merely] two preschool boys. One day I was helping them pick up their room and I quite literally stumbled upon a broken clothes pin - one wooden side with the now-meaningless spring still attached. Just as I was about to toss it in the trash, my son screamed, "Mom! Don't! That's my thingie!!"

Duly noted. Keep calm and tidy on.

Later at the lunch table, I noticed he was having trouble holding his cup. As I tried to help him, I realized he had that silly clothes pin lodged into the palm of his clinched fist. I pried it from his milky grip and assured him that his treasured thingie would be safe on the counter until lunch was over.

Fifteen years later - so like, last week - is the setting for our second story.

Several of us were relaxing in the living room when I began to smell something awful. (This in itself is not at all remarkable.) But, it was a suffocating stench ... thick and nauseating. Others began to gasp and react with eye-squinting puzzlement.

Our living room smelled like a musk ox bathing in a bucket of moth balls. We were pretty sure it was the teenage boy. The gagging reflexes had initiated as he walked in from work, And so I inquired.

"Honey, what's that smell?"
"Oh, that? It's my new cologne. Isn't it great?"
[Well, no, that is NOT great. And it is indeed NOT your new cologne because YOU live here, but THAT woeful concoction is about to leave this house.]

He went on to explain that a nice guy came to his work and was selling "name brand cologne for really cheap". And since he's been needing some new spray, he used what was left of his paycheck and bought the extra large bottle.

Mercy. [He took a shower immediately while we ran the air conditioner, opened the windows, and lit all the candles. The bottle was laid to rest in the dumpster, and his sister -who actually HAS use of her olfactory senses - accompanied him to the department store the next day;]

Ok. Two stories. One theme.


Like the "eau de toilet", sometimes we are deceived. We are led astray by schemes that promise just what we think we need. We believe the lies. We give everything we have, and let it cover our lives - all the while placing our pride and confidence in our choice. But in the end, we've invested in worthless, counterfeit goods that do not deliver, and must be destroyed and replaced.

And other times, like with the "thingie", we are distracted. We find ourselves enamored by some small insignificant thing. But we highly regard it as a treasured companion through life. We take hold, and it dominates our thoughts and decisions. We raise its importance to an inappropriate level by never letting go. We choose to keep hold of it, even as it makes the truly important aspects of our lives challenging and cumbersome.

These are pictures of idolatry. Serving, setting our hearts upon, following after something or someone other than the One True God.

And I'll add this. Idolatry can also begin as a commitment to something good. Not a sinister deception or a stubborn preoccupation, but as a simple devotion ... to a wholesome, good gift from God.

Relationships can become idols when we look to people to provide for our every need, and to give our lives meaning and purpose. (That's God's job and He takes it very seriously.)

Some people defend the Truth - which is good. But, in their efforts to be right, they treat others with a harsh lack of respect that contradicts the nature of the God they profess to honor.

Even religion and morality can become false gods. People say, "I'm devoted to God," but the reality of their heart is "I love the attention I get when I serve."  Or, "Helping others soothes my own insecurities." Or, "I find my identity [not in Christ and His righteousness, but] in saying no to bad stuff and saying yes to good stuff."

It's tricky!

What is your thingie today? What is it that distracts you and demands inordinate amounts of your attention and affection? What if you asked God - the Supreme Power of the universe Who also wants to be your friend - to give you the courage to let it go?

Are you broken? Or maybe just broke and stinky? What if you humbled yourself to God - the Redeemer and Healer - and allowed Him to wash you, and provide everything you need for a fresh start?

Or are you so busy enjoying created things, living the "good life", that you have displaced and dismissed Creator God - the Father of Life - the Giver of all good and perfect gifts?

"Then God spoke these words:
I am the Lord your God, Who has brought you out of ... bondage.
You shall have no other gods before or besides Me." 
- Exodus 20, Amplified

Tim Keller
Kelly Minter