You see, I’m convinced that idolatry is not merely an attempt to seek justification elsewhere, requiring immediate repentance and belief. That’s theologically satisfying, perhaps, but psychologically simplistic. No, I’m convinced we need to listen underneath, to give voice to those parts of us that crave and ultimately enslave. So, I’ve often told my clients to do this: Take a pen, and give a voice to that idol or that part of you, for example, that finds security through money. What’s it saying? Is a part of what it is saying legitimate? (I suspect some of it is, because normally our idols are perversions of things that God created good).
If so, do something else (…and this part will really make you think I’m a nut). Write or speak back to that part of you. Thank it for desiring something good, and ask if it would be willing to let go of some of its power (repentance), to play its instrument a little lower and in tune with the rest of the orchestra, or perhaps even a little louder and in greater harmony if need be. Tell it to re-focus its eyes on the Conductor, who wants it to join in the chorus of faith, hope, and love, of an un-divided heart, of shalom.
What are my idols saying right now?
- you’re not good enough to hold your relationships together
- someone will find out that you don’t work hard enough
- you don’t/can’t love enough
- it doesn’t matter what you do, you’ll screw it up
- run away
- do whatever it takes to keep the peace
I don’t know whether these are multiple idol voices or simply one multitonality singing its own harmonies. Whichever the case, I find it tragically ironic that the points in life where one finds the clearest expression of who one is are often those times when the cacophanous orchestral reaches a crescendo. I’m not sure why this happens. Perhaps because those areas in which we excel are often those which are the areas of greatest weakness as well. What then are the voices saying? What is it, which Chuck has said, that is legitimate and what is straight up the lie spoken to my heart by worthless idols?
- things worthwhile in life take hard, dedicated work
- I, as a sinful human being, am incapable of holding all things together
- peace is a good thing
- I can successfully run away from my problems
- I am a failure at those things which desire most
- I do not have what it takes to be the man I’m supposed to be
- I can control my life
God help me