But that’s just what I must do.
Yesterday afternoon I met with Pastor Mark, of theSprings church. I was nervous going in, because in the past I’ve been highly skeptical of church leaders and their motivations, and I’ve generally been wary of churches in general. It’s a deep-rooted cynicism, and while it’s almost certainly an unfair prejudice, that doesn’t make it any easier to overcome.
In the end, though, I found a trustworthy, earnest friend. We spoke for perhaps forty minutes, and it was a true two-way conversation. His honesty disarmed me, his philosophy spoke to me personally, and he welcomed me with open arms. I look forward to knowing him and his Church community more deeply.
He recommended some reading to me, which I started last night, and I’ll get into more later. But what I’m thinking about now is idolatry.
I’ve written in this space before about some of my idols. I’ve been materialistic to a deep fault, and I’ve been guilty of objectification of people (close to me, or otherwise). I’ve also confessed that I have control issues.
Then yesterday, when Pastor Mark and I spoke about finding peace, we decided to pray together. Before the prayer, he explained about how in order to find peace, I must first ask Christ for peace with an open heart, but then he also relayed a story I remember from the Gospel of Matthew:
“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
“Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matthew 19:17-21).
At first glance, it appears that the story is about giving to the poor, and giving of oneself, as an extension of the last commandment Jesus quotes. Pastor Mark pointed out that it’s deeper than that, though, and I agree. The story is about identifying the idols in our own lives and confronting our reliance upon them. It’s about abandoning those idols in order to find peace and life in the light of the Lord.
I also read a last night from the first two chapters of “Mere Christianity,” by C.S. Lewis. One of the chief positions he takes is that we all universally understand what he calls the “Law of Nature,” which is a fancy way of saying that there is a truth about what is right and what is wrong, and that deep down, we all know that difference. We may lie to ourselves and to others in order to justify behavior contrary to that law, but in the end it governs our conscience, and determines how we interact with other people. We know it, and we do not need to be taught it to know whether or not we are following it.
Perhaps it’s just my mind juxtaposing the two ideas, but it does seem to me like the two concepts are related. Deep down, I know what my idols are, because they run contrary to how my own understanding of the Law of Nature governs my actions. I’ve identified some of them so far without digging too deep, but I think some deep introspection was needed to really find a root to pull up.
Last night, I found a common link–I think that my idol is perfection. Namely, a perfect construct of an earthly life: to have all the possessions I would ever need, to control all the aspects of my environment, to surround myself with the perfect people to suit my taste and personal needs, et cetera. I think what I was looking for was an idyllic lifestyle, and I thought that if I found it, I could become my best self. By making my earthly life “perfect,” I sought to become perfect by extension.
In order to truly find peace, I must confront that idol and banish it.
All of this week’s lessons are coming together at once. I’ve written about accepting the things I cannot change, and as it pertains to that idol, I must understand in my mind and heart that nothing–and no one–of this earth is perfect. Especially not me. I have also written about shedding my expectations, and about accepting what life hands me as a gift from God. In relation to defeating my idol, it could be as simple as submitting myself to God’s will and understanding that the illusion of control is a joke I have played on myself.
Ultimately, my idolatry here has me held captive in a prison of my own making. I have ruined relationships and burned bridges because of it, and I have shut myself off from the world. I want desperately to rebuild those things. I must endeavor to accept God’s will and gifts in my heart to do so.
I have to let go of the illusion of perfection and control. I must be a leaf on the wind, and trust that God will see me safely to my destination. Only then will I begin to find peace, and only then can I hope to rebuild my life through God’s love.