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There is nothing like a leap of faith that reveals the false footings of our hearts. For me, it was at that cliff called Surrender. God had prompted my family into missional living and full-time ministry, and I needed to let go and leap.
But, the set-up didn’t seem that appealing. First, I didn’t feel prepared; neither my husband nor I have seminary degrees. Further, it all seemed too counter-culture, talking about living intentionally in a neighborhood in “that” part of town. Truth is, we had been looking for a nice, quiet, and rural setting for our family. And, this new God-driven proposition demanded we loosen our white knuckles that gripped around our security, our sense of control, and our idyllic pursuit of the American dream.
Looking back, that season was wrought with struggle – because we were pulled taught between God and His blessings. After all, God wasn’t asking us to quit seeking after bad things; He was asking us to surrender really good things, blessings that we had elevated to a God-like status. And, trusting God meant releasing our hold on them in order to let Him reign uncontested.
As I am learning, some idols don’t look so bad on the outside; in fact, they are beautiful, and we enjoy worshipping them. So, “having no other gods before me” may not just be about not loving the bad things. It may also be about loving the good things too much.
Good, beautiful, and blessed things can wrap around our hearts so tightly that we can scarcely imagine loving anything, or anyone, more. They can mute our ears to God’s voice and draw our eyes from Him. Below are five beautiful idols, cherished things that have the tendency to exalt themselves in our lives. They can edge into top priority over Christ and make our total surrender to Him a struggle.
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Bible knowledge can become an idol when we focus more on gaining it than applying it to our daily life and walk with Jesus. It can become a goal achieved for status or position rather than humble servanthood in Christ’s image. If our desire to grow in Biblical learning surpasses our desire to live out what we know to be true, this may be an idol.
We are just used to doing things our own way, right? Whether we pray for spiritual eyes or not, our default is to see life through our own socioeconomic status, nationality, and race. We can become so good at being our cultural norm that we forget our first identity is being a Christian. How does Christ see our country and our communities? How does He value its people, those like and unlike us? If we fail to love people unlike us or can only view ourselves as superior to them, our cultural norm may be an idol.
Home is a wonderful thing. And, it’s good and right to care for our surroundings, making our homes into places of rest and security for our families. Yet sometimes, it can become the thing. It’s easy to get caught up in the pinterest-perfection of it all and forget our homes are tools that God can use to bless others. If we find ourselves only opening our homes to certain people or using all kinds of excuses to not allow others beyond our entry way, our homes may be our idol.
This one is especially hard and especially subtle. We love our families, yet our love for them can rival our love for Christ. Suddenly, this beautiful idol becomes one we refuse to surrender. We make family the reason for not taking steps of faith, for not engaging with others, for not extending ourselves beyond our close circle. If loving our families becomes a reason to absent ourselves from other relationships or becomes the deciding factor rather than God’s will, our family may be an idol.
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We all long for future security, financial security, and basically just risk-free living. When Jesus calls us otherwise, this idol becomes a fierce competitor for our devotion. Suddenly “living as Jesus’ disciple” must fit into our neat box that is both predictable and stable. If we scoff at any leap of faith other than what we can envision and meticulously plan out, our security may be an idol.
Lord, would You open our eyes? Would You give us courage to willingly expose our hearts and let You search them? Please make us more aware of what pulls the most strongly at our hearts. Help us to recognize the beautiful idols we worship, the things that hold us back from loving You with abandon. And, God, please give us the grace to lay them all down out of devotion to You. We believe You are worthy and sufficient. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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Anne Dahlhauser blogs at Front Porch, Inspired about surrendering everyday living for sacred purposes. She and her husband, Jay, are founders of a ministry called The Bridge, focusing on missional living, training, and intercultural relationships. She holds an MA in Teaching Languages (English and Spanish) and is a lover of words and the Word, culture and communication. Jay and Anne have four young kids, a front door that can’t stay closed, and an abundance of messy, holy chaos at their neighborhood center/home in Iowa – of all places.