When I was in my late 20s and single, I was afraid I was idolizing marriage, and I had reason to be. I knew marriage was a healthy, God-given desire. But I oftentimes found myself obsessing over it, anguishing over the wait before I met “the one,” and inordinately discouraged when another hopeful romance turned out to be nothing.
It reminded me of my obsessive attempts to be successful in law school — the exclusive attention I paid to my studies, my lack of involvement in church, and my utter devastation when I didn’t get the grade I wanted in one of my classes.
Come to think of it, it also reminded me of my church involvement in my early 20s. I was feverishly devoted to the nondenominational church I attended, to the point that I assumed most other churches were apostate. My coworkers’ disapproval of my church offended me far too easily, and the approval of the pastoral staff meant far too much to me.
There was nothing wrong with wanting to be married or successful in law school or with being involved in my local church. In fact, they were all good things. The problem was that they were idols; because essentially, an idol is anything that can make you feel more important than Jesus can. My marital status, academic success, and particular brand of Christianity all fit that bill at one time.
I wish I had noticed it at the time, but the nature of idols is to keep you over-committed and unaware of how much lifeblood you’re donating to them. I think Nicholas McDonald says it best, in his recent piece, “Hello. I am an idol.”
Hello. I am an idol.
Don’t be afraid, it’s just me. I notice you’re turned off by my name: “Idol.”
It’s okay. I get that a lot.
Allow me to rename myself.
I’m your family.
Your bank account.
Your sex life.
The people who accept you.
Your ideal spouse.
I’m whatever you want me to be.
I’m what you think about while you drive on the freeway.
I’m your anxiety when you lay your head on the pillow.
I’m where you turn when you need comfort.
I’m what your future cannot live without.
When you lose me, you’re nothing.
When you have me, you’re the center of existence.
You look up to those who have me.
You look down on those who don’t.
You’re controlled by those who offer me.
You’re furious at those who keep you from me.
When I make a suggestion to you, you’re compelled.
When you cannot gratify me, I consume you.
No—I cannot see you, or hear you, or speak back to you.
But that’s what you like about me.
No—I am never quite what you think I am.
But that’s why you keep coming back.
And no—I don’t love you.
But I’m there for you, whenever you need me.
What am I?
I think you know by now.
You tell me.
“The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them” (Psalm 135:15-18).
“Hello. I am an idol.” was republished here with permission from Nicholas McDonald, who originally shared it on his blog, ScribblePreach.com. He is the author of Faker: How to live for real when you’re tempted to fake it.