I don’t remember what we talked about each Sunday morning, but I looked forward to every Sunday school class in 6th grade. And while it’s true I liked going to see the cute boy who was there, mostly I liked how Mrs. Moore talked about God–almost like she knew Him on a first-name basis and had a special “in” with Jesus. Her middle-aged eyes lit up and danced on her pudgy face, as she talked of how she was in love with Him, and how I could be too.
Just being around her made me feel closer to God.
I remember another woman who entered my life while I was a music pastor’s wife in my early twenties. Rachel and her husband returned from Africa, where they served God out in the middle of nowhere. And they told magnetizing stories of their ministry there. That year was their furlough year, and they’d moved into one of the parsonages just blocks from the church. She was pregnant with their third baby, and delivered soon after they arrived.
I watched as she gently mothered her newborn and toddlers, observed as she supported her husband, and marveled in her articulate ways. She had a Master’s degree from seminary, and faithfully studied God’s Word. And between her and her husband, they’d memorized entire books of the New Testament. She was a busy lady, in the throes of sleepless nights and unrelenting motherhood–a stage of life I didn’t yet understand at all.
Yet even still, her example and commitment left me awestruck and longing for more.
For more Jesus.
More interaction with her.
I remember craving time with her–because when I was close to her, I felt closer to God.
And then, profound failure hit my life in my late twenties. And in the aftermath of the crisis, and throughout the decade of healing that followed, I grew in maturity and character. Through counseling and God’s mercy, I gained freedom from my dependence on performance-based love and approval. And I grew in my intimacy with God.
And, while I’ve thrown off my need to depend on others to feel close to God, it’s a love idol that still rears its ugly head in my life now and again.
At forty-three, if I’m gut-level honest, I still crave closeness with others who are close to God. Not because I’m not close to Him myself, but because I’m still romanced by the inkling that being close to them, makes me feel closer to God.
I’m a relator by nature, and almost nothing is more satisfying to me than connecting with others. Especially others who are passionate about pursuing God too. You can spot them as clearly as your reflection in a storefront window.
They give gentle answers.
Conduct quiet lives.
Practice patience and gentleness.
And captivate you with their joy.
But a dangerous line is crossed anytime we look to a person to occupy a piece of real-estate in our heart that only belongs to God. [Tweet that]
And if I’m not careful, those people–those relationships–can become love idols in my life.
I know it is acceptable, and even preferable, to be in community and receive encouragement and support from others who love God.
Honestly, that is a beautiful gift.
And I suppose I could have hidden behind that fact, not written this post, and seemed so ‘put together’. But for me, it would be a mask. And I’d be hiding dysfunction behind that veil.
Because even good things can become dysfunctional things, if we let them.
It’s one thing to have friends who are passionate about God, and desire to be close to them. It’s another whole thing to crave their companionship so much, that it preoccupies your everyday moments, and interrupts your everyday life.
Incessantly checking for messages.
Watching their interactions with others, and longing to interact with them too.
Hanging on their every word,
And feeling less than, when you’re overlooked or ignored.
God has been firmly tugging on my heart about this, and I’d be waxing eloquent and justifying it, if I failed to face the truth.
Because there are some relationships in my life I’ve allowed to become love idols–people I’ve allowed to occupy some small part of my heart that should only belong to God.
And during this Lenten season, I want to be free.
Free from checking and watching.
Free from hanging and longing.
And instead? I want more of Him.
To look to Him. And to crave Him alone.
To pursue Him when I’m tempted to seek closeness from them.
To run toward my God, who has already declared He knows me, and loves me, and is ever so close to me right where I am.
In the moments I’m tempted to turn to my love idols, may I turn instead to God–to the heart of His presence, and no other.
And may I know, in the deepest parts of my heart, He alone is always enough for me.
What love idol can you identify in your life?
My friend Jennifer Dukes Lee has written a book called Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval-and Seeing Yourself through God’s Eyes that speaks into the heart of this idol issue. Jennifer reminds us that because of what Jesus did, all our striving for acceptance, approval, and validation is in vain, reminding us that God has loved us with a love that is enough.
In Love Idol, Jennifer addresses our propensities toward self-criticism, perfectionism, performance, and validation from anything other than God. And we leave with her words believing and knowing of this great love of God. A love that is ours no matter what we do, or what we fail to do. We are pre-approved, and lack nothing because of Him.
Jennifer’s book is scheduled for release on April 1st, but is available for pre-order now. And in celebration of the book, Jennifer is going on a deep Lenten journey leading us in a process, to uncover our love idols, remove them, and begin to live freer than we ever have before. And we are all invited.
Won’t you come along with us?