March 10, 2011

Stressful Idols

While I never thought badly of our modern habit of calling things "idols" which are not in fact wooden statues, lately I wondered if the Bible ever used the word to describe devotion to money, comfort, or something else that can take over our focus from God. I am always made much more comfortable with a concept or practice once I am able to find it in scripture. As a side note, the Bible never actually says you must pray with your eyes closed! Not that it's wrong in any way (it does help eliminate distractions) but know that you've got options. Obviously, that's a pretty minor point.

My answer about the use of the concept of idols came in Colossians 3:5-6:
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.
Paul is specifying greed here, and greed is an especially appropriate one to call an idol. The love of money is warned against several times in Paul's writings (1 Timothy 6:10, "a root of all kinds of evil," Hebrews 13:5 also). While the others are not specifically called idols, I think the concept can be applied.

That said, I recently had a very beneficial growing experience regarding idols. I was the sound designer for a show going up on the big stage in the theater building; and the nature of the show made it very sound-heavy. Thusly, I had a lot of work to do. Given my predisposition to be very deadline-focused and care a lot about doing things correctly, I started to stress out fairly often either about about the project in particular or how busy I was in general.

I started to react to this in a good way, though I couldn't at that point articulate exactly what I was doing. Whenever I would feel stressed (as in actively worrying, tightening up, et cetera) I would stop what I was doing and pray or read scripture or something along those lines. Once I did this by deciding to attend a weekly prayer gathering sponsored by our InterVarsity chapter; I had been planning on missing it to get work done, but began to stress out, so I went. It finally boiled down when I articulated it to a friend: when I find myself worrying, it means I have taken my focus off of God and am not believing his Gospel and the truth about my life and his promises. So, whenever I stress out it is a sign to stop and get re-focused on the right things.

I was able to put this into great usage over the next few weeks. When the first night of technical rehearsal hit, there were a lot of things that went wrong on my end that involved me running up and down two flights of stairs repeatedly over an hour to fix things. Through this, even though things were going pretty badly, I never got truly stressed. Even though I was out of breath, I had a tight hold on God's perspective and promises for my life. It was a really amazing thing.

I'm hoping to keep this habit up. Now I'm choosing not to stress over planning my Appalachian Trail hike, which has much higher stakes for me than the sound designing did. I'm thanking God that he taught me that lesson and that by his grace it's sticking; it certainly has made me much more effective to do well in his Name.

1 comment:

  1. Amen! It's so funny that I read this today because I just had a very similar experience. I've been really, well, burdened I guess. It's coming to the end of the semester and there's just so much to do that I've been working pretty much non-stop from when I get up to when I go to sleep. Although some of these things I do are "God-related," nothing can replace spending time one on one with Him. Today in chapel I, once again, found myself kneeling during worship. I asked God, "Why do I feel so lost right now? What's going on?" He gently reminded me that my focus had shifted from my Guide. I had moved my eyes from looking at my God to the stresses in my life. The moment I began to refocus my attention on the One who matters, I came to so much peace. There's still a ton to get done, that didn't change, but I was reminded that God is my priority, not my work. And if I focus on Him, all these things will be added (Matt. 6:33)!

    Awesome post, Zach. Thanks.