“What do you mean, ‘What’s the matter?’” Micah replied. “You’ve taken away all the idols I have made, and my priest, and I have nothing left!”
I was once in a relationship with an amazing man. One afternoon by chance, he had walked downstairs and saw me working at my desk. He worked up the courage and asked me out to lunch. We became friends, then best friends, and it wasn’t long before we were besotted with each other.
The relationship grew. He got to know my family. I went to his family dinners, spent our lunch breaks together, worked on business projects, and spent many weekends together. We discussed our work challenges and victories and bounced business ideas off each other. It was a perfect relationship as we invested in each area of the other’s life. We spent so much time together because we understood each other on a deep level. Weekends would roll around, and it became a silent expectation that we would be spending every spare minute together, other than a small window of time to clean our living spaces, say hi to our parents and have bathroom breaks.
As the relationship progressed, my interest in my work and my business began to wane, and the amount of time I spent with friends and family decreased. We forsook plans with friends and events that didn’t involve the other. We wanted to be together all the time. But when we were, it was as though we were incapable of fulfilling each other’s deeper level of being. Realising I was looking to him for fulfilment, I sought to correct this by encouraging us to make plans with our friends and spend time at church.
Over time, problems and slight frustrations arose. He was investing a lot into me and my business, and he felt it was more than I was giving to him. Although he didn’t express it, in his mind and heart he had raised me above his friends, family, work, his plans, and above God. Unknown to his feelings, he wanted me to return to that same level of investment, but I couldn’t reciprocate, as I had put another in that place.
Seven years ago God had called me out of my idol worship – out of spiritual and emotional bankruptcy. I never want to return to where I was all those years ago. I needed to move forward with God at the centre of my life or I wouldn’t be moving forward at all.
Break ups became frequent as we kept falling into the unhealthy routine of secluding ourselves. We found it hard to give each other space. When we did, he didn’t sleep well, worked overtime and beat his body in the gym.
I wanted the relationship to last; I wanted him, but I needed him to understand it was not balanced. For us to work, he had to recognise I could not fulfil his deeper level of being. As any imperfect human, my actions and thoughts are flawed, and I would keep disappointing him.
The tipping point was the last break up. During the time apart, I was trying to be strong to allow us both space to get things right in our hearts. He made the decision to see somebody else. When I discovered this, my heart broke. The situation damaged me; it damaged us.
Love makes us think crazy things. But love without God at the head can become destructive. There is nothing wrong with relationships, money, careers or possessions but when we put them above God, we sink to emotional and spiritually empty places. We look for alternative idols that validate our existence and fulfils our human needs. We find one, hold it up, work to please it and love it with all of our heart. We give, invest and throw everything into the pursuit of the idol only to receive less than what we invested. We allow it to rule over us and we submit to it. We try and break ties with it, and we end up coming back to it only for it to fail us.
The passage from Judges is as relevant today as it was when it was written over 2500 years ago. We are the same people today as back then. The priest had his idols and ran his personal religion. When the men of Dan took his idols and priest, it exposed an empty spiritual condition. Throughout the Old Testament, we read about the physical loss Israel experienced when they forsook God. The stakes were high for Israel back then as they are for us now. The Lord took Israel, a weak and divided people out of their default position of idol worship to be led by Joshua to put 31 Kings and their cities to the sword and cause the hearts of the people around them to melt. Know this: with God, one faithful man can rout 1000 men in battle, but without Him what we worship will end up becoming a snare and a trap.
Jesus’ words of warning were NOT idol anyone or anything, but to reserve that place for God. Jesus explicitly stated that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart soul strength and mind. He knows the thing beating in our chest is fickle and deceitful beyond measure. Our hearts will be lead astray easily as we become exactly what we worship. It’s not until He reveals Himself to us and we see Him for who He is – His good character, His justice, His power – that we forsake our empty idol worship and follow Him.
Jesus said: “Never will I leave you or forsake you.” Growing closer to God is not unhealthy or toxic, quite the opposite. He heals our emotions, enriches our lives and then opens us up to new opportunities. The only way to protect yourself against such loss is to invest your life in the living God, whom you can never lose.