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Idols best ignored

There are many idols in my yard.  Some are best dealt with head on.  A shovel, a pick-axe and a bit of determination will bring them down.  Others though, are hewn from a different wood.  Repeated blows from the axe do very little, in fact, they seem to grow stronger, as if their resiliency was strengthened by my very efforts to bring them down.  Exhausted from the struggle, eventually I give up and content myself with the garden on the other side of the property.  Lost in the colors and beauty, I quickly forget the lost battle.  Yet walking home I catch a glimpse of my old nemesis.  It has fallen.

I have found three great sins, all of which grow stronger under direct attack.  Pride, vanity and pity, those sins which fall quickest not through fervent contemplation, but rather by a steady neglect.  I recall the first time I really admitted pride was a struggle for me.  More than a struggle, it defined me.  Approaching it like every other sin, I threw it before a gauntlet of prayer, study and contemplation, scouring the bible in hope of deliverance.  Useless.

It simply never left.  No ground was gained. If anything, I found myself mired even deeper in the worship of Self.  Only now, I placed the great stamp of humility on the process and called it holy.  In reality I simply shifted the sin from pride to self absorption.  Semantics.

Redemption came not in days or weeks, but over months, perhaps decades.  The whole process slide forward at such a glacial pace, I only noticed the improvement when a friend mentioned the change.   Looking back, the greatest progress occurred during moments of total abandonment.  Or, as Andrew Murray calls it, absolute surrender.  When the presence of the Lord so consumes our thoughts and emotions we have no room left for pride.

Sometimes it comes during moments of deep prayer and meditation.  Often though, I am most consumed with His presence when simply serving someone else.  I believe He grants a unique level of peace for those moments when we just love someone more than ourselves.  Whether a moment of quiet counsel or a few words of encouragement, a deep joy awaits our most selfless acts.  And this joy we taste twice, for we find great happiness not only in our act of service but also in the knowledge that our idols are far away.

Our minds are not bottomless vessels or infinite repositories.  The very proportion in which the Lord fills our cup dictates how much room is left for the idols in our life.  How often we toil in vain attempts to keep it clean and empty.  This is impossible.  The Lord asks us not to carry around an empty cup, he asks us to let Him clean it and fill it with pure water.  We’ll often let Him remove the dirt and grit, but we insist He return it empty, trusting ourselves to do the refilling.

Such folly.  The simplest way to keep a cup clean is to fill it to the brim with something that never spoils.


Comment from nate
Time October 10, 2008 at 12:29 pm

You need a fiance… that will teach you humility.

Comment from Elizabeth K
Time October 10, 2008 at 2:47 pm

I think I too easily forget how stressed out I get when I’m clutching so desperately to my life, and then working so hard to change my unhappiness…. I equally forget how peaceful and happy I am when I’ve finally given up and surrendered over….

Great post! I like the yard/garden metaphor.

Comment from jrmallory
Time October 11, 2008 at 11:51 am

Nate. Yeah, I will look into it.

Comment from Jeremy
Time October 13, 2008 at 9:13 am

jim, this puts to words something i’ve been wrestling with lately. thanks. a piece of scripture i’ve been meditating on is Romans 8:5-8, and 12-14 (message)

being single, i totally agree with nate – find a wife, find humility!

Romans 8:5-8, and 12-14 (message)

“Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.”

“So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!”

Comment from jrmallory
Time October 13, 2008 at 3:55 pm

Thanks Jeremy, that verse totally nails it. Time and time again I realize there really isn’t anything new for us to say, we’re simply repackaging what is already in His Word. Which is great, it makes our job much easier. We just hold up the mirror.

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