I took a few days out of my regular Bible study plan to complete a packet on idolatry we were given in our community group. I was under no obligation to complete it, but the pages sat folded up in my Bible, and I'm pretty sure the Spirit was whispering "Go there. Study that packet."
Studying the packet has meant honestly questioning and analyzing my idols. The packet talks about our desires for comfort, approval, power, and control, and then asks questions such as "What are you most proud of?" "What do you turn to when things go wrong?" and "What do you spend the most time thinking about each day?" I answered these questions as honestly as I could by listing out all the fleshly impulses and thoughts that stream through my mind each day.
And you know what? My idols are beautiful.
Seriously. My idols are gorgeous. They are attractive to me and they probably look really good to onlookers as well.
Here are a few of them...
I love control, self-discipline, and meeting really high standards. When things go wrong, I micromanage and check things off a to-do list until everything feels right again. This is an ugly part of my heart, but it looks really good on the outside. It looks like always having a clean house, always being caught up on laundry, working out four days a week, and making a lot of home-cooked dinners.
It looks really freaking pretty.
And so I wondered, "What do you do when your idols look really good? Both to you and others?"
But then I realized, all idols look pretty. The Bible tells us that idols are covered in gold. They are crafted carefully by human hands to be breathtaking and captivating. Isaiah 40:19 says, "A craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold, and casts for it silver chains." Idols are always gorgeous, so they camouflage the evil within.
In theory, I can think of "ugly" idols. I think of an eating disorder and the desire for control that leads to starvation and emaciated bodies. I think of binge eating and purging and it's not attractive. But do you know what IS attractive? Slender bodies and seeing a number you like on the scale. Eating healthy. Having the discipline to eat in moderation and saying no to sweets. Eating disorders are ugly, but they are covered in hundreds of beautiful jewels called "good health" and "discipline" to hide the ugliness beneath the surface.
Another ugly idol is the pornography industry. It makes me sick, especially that it's a gateway to the trafficking industry. It's such an evil, entrapping business. But you know what? It also looks beautiful to many. For those who dabble in it as consumers it looks like sexual desire fulfilled, relief and relaxation at no expense to others. For the women in the industry it looks like fame, beauty, and approval. For the producers, it means money and the comforts and security that come along with a big paycheck. The pornography business is one of the ugliest out there but it's covered by a million glittering jewels.
And my idols are covered with jewels and sparkling as well. In order to have a clean house, I run around all day fretting over chores and inwardly sigh when people come over and make a mess. I rearrange my whole schedule around going to the gym and will forsake social time and relationships to the treadmill. I keep everything in order around my home and then erupt in anger if Micah misses a dinner I prepared, leaves his clothes out, or asks me to be flexible about my schedule. The truth of the matter is my beautiful idols are really, very ugly.
And my idols only point to deeper issues in my heart. Having a clean house and a well-used gym membership are not the real problems. The real problem is that whenever I face difficulty, uncertainty, loss, or disappointment I turn to my to-do list instead of to the Lord. When I run into a problem, I try to spray it away with Windex instead of bringing it to God. When I am upset, I turn to a quick-fix of exercise-induced endorphins instead of crying out to my Savior.
I have a God who loves me utterly and who gives unending comfort, yet I turn to my to-do list in moments of anxiety and let the beautiful gods of discipline, chores, and routines rule my heart and my life. Change my heart, God. May I find my comfort in You and not a checklist. May I cling to You, rely on You, and be consumed with the knowledge that Your love and care will sustain me always.