“Anatomy of an Idol” (Sneak Peek of My Next Book!)

Today’s blog is the first chapter of my latest book, which is set to be released later this month! Immeasurable: Diving into the Depths of  God’s Love is my personal story of finding freedom from “measuring up” by seeking the One who numbers and names the stars, the One who gives graciously from the overflowing abundance of His love.

By renewing my mind through prayer and time devoted to reading and meditating upon the Word of God, I have found my unshakable identity in Jesus Christ, not my dress size or how I compare to the airbrushed women displayed across America’s magazine covers and billboards. I’ve learned that while we are indeed called to take care of our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit, we mustn’t make idols of them. When our motives for leading a healthy lifestyle shift away from glorifying God to pleasing ourselves and garnering praise from others, we become ensnared and bound by sinful habits that stifle us spiritually and overwhelm us physically. Only by surrendering every part of our lives to God, including our fitness and nutrition, can we fully discover and enjoy the abundant life He has for us.

I pray today’s excerpt is a blessing to you, and I look forward to sharing more of my journey through God’s immeasurable love in the weeks and months to come.

I Am Beautiful Because God Made Me in His Image

 

Dear Children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts. -1 John 5:21 (NLT)

The hit TV show American Idol debuted the summer before my sophomore year of high school, back in 2002. Incidentally, that was also the summer I first fashioned an American idol of my own: the heart-shaped, rose-scented idol of Romance.[1] Now, I don’t mean to imply that first kisses and puppy love are the pleasures of pagans, but I do know from personal experience how a relationship can lead us to behave like love-struck fools, plain and simple.

You know what I’m talking about. We check our cell phones every 30 seconds to see if he texted or tweeted, resisting the urge to initiate conversation. We repeatedly visit his Facebook wall, memorize his favorite bands, quotes, and television shows, convincing ourselves “We’re soul mates!”  We begin writing our first names with his last name behind it in the best cursive we can muster on every surface imaginable: notebooks, paper tablecloths, foggy car windows, you name it. We create a “Wedding and Honeymoon” board on Pinterest and spend every spare second populating it with invitations, gown designs, and exotic Caribbean photos. Our time with God diminishes as time spent with our beloved takes top priority. If we’re not careful, the relationship that began with an ice cream date and a front door kiss can evolve into a Laughing Buddha-sized idol that is constantly fed, yet never satisfied.

My first boyfriend was the star soccer player in high school. He was tan and shaggy-haired, with a deep, radio-worthy voice and the most beautiful hazel eyes I’d ever seen. We were inseparable as we fell in love. Before I continue, I will honestly tell you that we were chaste throughout our relationship; we were adamant about remaining virgins until marriage.[2] That said, we secretly held hands and sneaked kisses during our youth group get-togethers, but don’t tell Mr. Watson that!

When I was with him, I felt like life couldn’t get any better. It was as if his presence gave me an endorphin rush or super jolt of caffeine. When I wasn’t with him, I missed him terribly and only found solace in thinking and talking about him ad nauseam. I wrote his last name behind my first name almost involuntarily and made countless froufrou keepsakes for him continuously. If Pinterest had existed then, I would’ve been pinning bridesmaids dresses and cake toppers to it like a mad woman. All because I worshipped him.

We were together for two years. Then suddenly, we weren’t. And when I say “suddenly,” I mean the boy sent me a break-up text message during BCIS class my senior year. (If I were Taylor Swift, you can bet I would have written a catchy country song relaying every pathetic detail.) I went to my teacher with tear-filled eyes and a trembling voice that managed to utter “My boyfriend just broke up with me” while pointing to my phone. She was just as astonished as I by his less-than-chivalrous break-up strategy and graciously allowed me to leave class.

I kept it together on the drive home. Turning into my driveway, our song, “Heaven,” by DJ Sammy, began to play on the radio. I don’t really need to include the lyrics, do I? It’s your typical sappy love song that elevates human love to a transcendent pedestal above basic life necessities, including oxygen, food, and water. According to this particular song, heaven isn’t enjoying eternity in the presence of God and His Son; it’s being with the one you love.

I’d been singing “Heaven” as though it were a joyful worship hymn for years, but today, it sounded more like a funeral dirge. I began to sob and acted upon the first impulse that popped into my mind. No, not to pray…but to call Mr. Chivalry. I begged him to face me “like a man,” but he was reluctant. Couldn’t he hear “Heaven” playing in the background as I bawled to him? Didn’t he want to fight to maintain the paradise we’d created? Not so much…

After his mom nagged him sufficiently, he agreed to come over and talk, but this only made things worse. He’d been away at college for a few months and I’d convinced myself there was another girl, but he denied that there was. The words Why? Why? Why? were flashing in neon letters across my brain and only intensified as he looked at me helplessly and stated, “We’ve just grown apart,” and “Our relationship has run its course.”

I lay on the living room floor the rest of the night, feeling paralyzed, crushed by an invisible weight – the weight of the idol that had turned on me despite my daily love.

The very next day I awoke desperate to fill the hole the golden statue of Romance had left when it abruptly abandoned the soil of my soul. I laced up my tennis shoes, donned my weight-lifting gloves, and headed to the gym to find a brand new idol.

I’d been working out for about a year, but I did so un-idolatrously. What I mean by that is, I would work out three to five times a week for a reasonable amount of time, then go on about my day. After the breakup, I started frequenting the gym twice, sometimes three times a day. Like a drug addict using multiple substances, I did Yoga, Pilates, weight-lifting, indoor cycling…anything to numb the pain of my aching heart. The numbers on the treadmill displaying the distance I’d run and the calories I’d burned supplied a sense of accomplishment as I seemed to reclaim control over my life by pushing my body faster and farther.

Slowly but surely, the wounds of the break-up began to heal. But the afflictions of the Pride idol were yet to make their mark.

In his book The Explicit Gospel, Matt Chandler writes:

“The idolatry that exists in man’s heart always wants to lead him away from his Savior and back to self-reliance, no matter how pitiful that self-reliance is or how many times it has betrayed him.”

I had bowed to the Romance/Boyfriend idol for so long that I had forgotten Who to turn to for true, complete healing and lasting comfort. Instead of casting my cares upon Christ, I proudly decided to rely on what little strength I had and carry my burdens myself. You know the popular adage that says pride comes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall?[3] Well my story is no exception; I had to fall flat on my face before I’d wake up and see that I wouldn’t make it far in life without the light of my Savior guiding me.

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.”-John 6:63 (ESV)

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[1] I say “first” to indicate that romance was not all I have idolized in my life. I will later explain how this original idol led to the formation of another, one regarded as a “deadly sin.”

[2] If you are a Christian and aren’t sure what to think about abstinence, I invite you to read 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4, Colossians 3:5, 2 Timothy 2:22, 1 Peter 2:11,  1 Corinthians 7:2, Romans 13:13, and Acts 15:20.

[3] Proverbs 16:18

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