"He knows what He is doing with me, and when He has tested me, I will come forth as pure gold" Francis I. Anderson "Job: An introduction and Commentary" Job 23:10
(as quoted from Timothy Keller’s book Counterfeit gods: The empty promises of money, sex, and power and the only hope that matters.)
It has been a long and difficult 2010, not because of the events that have happened along the way. No, the things that have made 2010 difficult haven’t been consequences, though they definitely were felt; haven’t been the deep disconnection that has come from the breakup with Shannon, though I must admit to being deeply wounded from that departure; hasn’t been the difficulties with the job search, one year and two months (and counting) or the opinions that surface as the time moves on and opportunities fail and chances are missed; hasn’t been the health aspect of my physical body (back in braces for the hands, taking high blood pressure medicine, high heart rate medicine, high cholesterol medicine) and increase in weight gain. It seems everything that has transpired has brought me to the place where I needed to be so that God’s sculpting could commence with purpose.
Keller speaks of the sin beneath the sin, the foundational cement upon which idols are set, unconsciously worshiped and pinned for, to the absence and rejection of God. It is that sin, the one I recognized in my life for the past year, especially the first six months of the relationship I was blessed to experience with Shannon, that drove the consequences and results into the mire of my despair and why God has brought me back to this place I thought I’d never see again. It is a place where I know I’ll have to come time and time again as I journey into the purpose He has set for me, however He decides to work it out and how it is envisioned by the Holy Spirit…..for even as I get closer to home, the danger of erecting similar idols will increase for I know where He would have me go is not for the faint hearted.
The cold bitter wind blows hard in this place, so hard I am surprised I can breathe. It is impossible to light the fire here; there is no fuel for it anyway. I can only shiver in the numbing cold and pour my broken, bitter and angry heart out to a God that I turn away from even as I call His name…. the idol of my sin blocking my sight of even His distant light.
As Paul says in Romans, God has ‘give[n me] over to the desires of [my] heart….” (Romans 1:24). It wasn’t a corrupt thing but it was a thing that was meant for something good and beautiful that became corrupted in my greed for it. My thoughts, my hopes and my dreams entangled by its thorns, my day dreams full of its ‘successfulness’ and my dreams at night enraptured by its enticements. It became, well before even Shannon entered into the picture, an idol I would build daily and wail before as the darkness loomed. It started well before Kristy, though the tale is woven with the same results and the others that I sought to be in a ‘intimate’ relationship with both before and after my salvation accepted. This idol has lived and breathed in the moments of my life with the sickly-sweet odor of its succulent petals and bled me upon the harsh prick of its thorns.
Keller breaks it down into three distinct ‘idols’, but I believe I wrapped them all up into the one called love.
The love of approval, comfort and control that would give me the desire of my heart; someone who would never reject me, chastise me or hurt me.
But it wasn’t something I believed, even in the dark days of my life, that this so-called God of Jacob, this great I AM, was capable of delivering. After all, I had the life to prove that god’s incapability in such matters and so I built that idol out of the gold in my life to worship as I controlled it, demanded of it and heaped condemnation upon even as I groveled for its favor. So God released me to its deaden worship, even as I faced the depravity of my sinful nature and begged His eternal mercy and grace.
This mighty God will not demand our worship, though it is His to do so. This God will not beg our worship, even as His heart breaks to allow us our freedom to idolatrize the desires of our hearts. No, He releases His hands ever so little as we struggle against Him and His loving grip.
That idol was ignored when I was in New York and doing the Bowery Mission work with Shannon… the happiness and joy felt there was far removed from the simple quest for its appearance in the life we would return to once the week was over. It is there that one of the truths Keller speaks of, that the removal of idols can only happen with the increased closeness to God was evident and true. Once New York was gone, the idol was re-erected and love corrupted by its worship.
Six months and three weeks to the day, Shannon told me that she didn’t want to be in the relationship anymore. The idol had failed, again.
I have been forced, in the last six months as I have sat here in the bitter dark cold of this place, to face this idol and look in disgust at its visage. Streaked with the dark stain of sin, it no longer glitters or entices or even attracts me anymore…..for if its existence is the one thing that God requires to take away in His demanded sacrifice of my desire, then I have journeyed to my Mount Moriah and laid the desire of a love that bleeds approval, gives comfort and controls only the beating of its life onto the altar I’ve built there. And offered it to the cleansing fire that comes from the only hope I have. I have gone from needing this, desperately wanting it and manipulating my world for it to seeking Him in all of its beauty and glorious honor it brings its Creator.
“And Abraham named that place The LORD Will Provide, so today it is said: "It will be provided on the LORD's mountain." (Genesis 22:14 HCSB)
There are many things that were damaged and destroyed by this idol. Shannon walked away from the relationship we shared six months ago because the idolatry of its existence in my life corrupted a beautiful wonderful and potentially dynamic thing that it would’ve been if I had sacrificed it upon the Mount Moriah altar even before we began. I used it to justify turning my back on the impossible things God called me to do, I used it as an excuse or a sheepskin upon the thrashing room floor as a test of God’s purpose. With the impossibility of the future dying upon its golden table, I begged cajoled and controlled this idol…..the altar upon which this idol sat burned day and night with the desires of my heart….for God had surrendered me to it.
In the end, the idol failed to deliver as it had failed to do so in the annuals of my life’s story. It hurt more this time for one simple fact; I learned to dress this idol up as a facsimile of what I thought was God. I fooled myself with its enticements and imagery and called it God. I sat as David upon the castle top and gazed upon this idol with lust instead of stepping back into a role of a godly man seeking God’s will in it and all things that my life was bringing.
I have sought her forgiveness and worked on my own. I pray for her and the marvelous things that God has given her to taste in this world, events that have lavished her in His love and tender mercies and prayed for myself, that I would even as I failed to be in the relationship a true friend even in the twilight of notice.
Now the Bowery Trip is coming back up and I hesitate to go; because God wants me to be part of His work there and I’ll be going with the full realization of what I’ve lost in the worship of the idol of my need to be loved by someone other than God. And I realize that He brought me here, by allowing me the desires of my heart, to this place where I am single and potentially will be for the rest of my life but where I am fully reliant upon His grace, mercy and love to do what He gives me to do.
As I sat here thinking of writing this, I opened my bible study program (E-Sword) and this was the verse that it opened to:
“I call for my servant, but he does not answer, even if I beg him with my own mouth.” (Job 19:16 HCSB)
He calls me to burn those idols down and come to Him empty, a vessel to be filled once more with His love, purpose, grace and mercy.
Overfilled, so that I may pour it out in service of others that I can empathize with.
"People who have never suffered in life have less empathy for others, little knowledge of their own shortcomings and limitations, no endurance in the face of hardship, and unrealistic expectations for life" Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods
"If I go east, He is not there, and if I go west, I cannot perceive Him. When He is at work to the north, I cannot see Him; when He turns south, I cannot find Him. Yet He knows the way I have taken; when He has tested me, I will emerge as pure gold. My feet have followed in His tracks; I have kept to His way and not turned aside. I have not departed from the commands of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my daily food. But He is unchangeable; who can oppose Him? He does what He desires. He will certainly accomplish what He has decreed for me, and He has many more things like these in mind. Therefore I am terrified in His presence; when I consider this, I am afraid of Him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me. Yet I am not destroyed by the darkness, by the thick darkness that covers my face.” (Job 23:8-17 HCSB)
These verses are the essence of burning those idols from our lives......