Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Thing Trap: Part II

Part II of an outtake chapter from Little Sins, Big Problems (AMG Publishers, 2003)

And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, "Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened." (1 Kings 18:27).
I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the image of someone beckoning a concocted god to wake up. While the verse above conveys the unvarnished futility of idol worship, it's no laughing matter when we contemplate the eternal destiny of those who've pinned their hopes and dreams and souls on cold, hard artifice.

Lest any of us become smug in our salvation, however, we're wise to consider whether or not we as Christians are guilty of our own adhesion to "false gods" in daily living. Maybe we don't bow down to rocks or connect-the-dot patterns in the night sky, but if we are chiefly defined by something other than our faith in Christ and love for one another, we might be chasing after idols, as well.


Do you carry debt beyond life's more practical needs (e.g., mortgage and car payments, school loans, medical bills, etc.) for frivolous things that you simply desire?

Is there something you own that you think about continually and worry about protecting?

Is there something of a material nature that you want so badly, you can't stop thinking about it?

When you get a pay raise or bonus, do you go out right away and start upgrading your lifestyle?

Answering "yes" to any the questions above doesn't make you a bad person! But it could indicate that you need to reflect upon how you oversee your budget and possessions to avoid being owned by your things.

Five Steps to Liberation from Things:

. Pray!

Confess to God (1 John 1:9)that you have an unhealthy relationship with things and pray that He will help purify your motives and shine a light on areas of weakness. Have faith that He will answer your prayers and seek guidance and comfort in the Word!

. Remember that God is in control

Control issues underwrite many problems associated with our attachment to things. When you have an internalized understanding that God is in control, you will relinquish your cares and troubles to Him. Because you will trust in Him. You won't need to micro-manage the lives of others. You won't have unnecessary worries or fear about the future. You won't need earthly emotional comforts or “fixes.” You will surrender to God and He will carry you.

. Serve a higher purpose

We can smother under the weight of our own troubles when we dwell on them to excess. The surest way to get some fresh air and boost our spirits is by serving the needs of others. When we find a person or a group in need -- someone or something that fuels our passion -- and we set out to help them, we benefit spiritually and emotionally.

. Scrutinize your motives

Think about why you buy things for yourself and others and take a “time-out” before making big purchases. Do you really need that new car for cargo space? Or, do you want to turn some heads in the neighborhood? What about that new designer dress? Does your wardrobe really need a lift? Or, are you trying to outshine Mary Jane at the office "holiday" party? Are your motives worthy? Or are they coming from a state of emptiness that only God can fill? Pray to God that He will help you discern the difference.

. Inspire people

Get out of the vain game! Stop competing with the people around you and this will neutralize their desire to compete with you. Seek, instead, to become a Christian role model for others and a woman of inspiration. Maybe you have a talent for music or crafts. Perhaps you are a good listener or God has given you the ability to easily comfort those who are troubled. Perhaps you are a joyful person whose cheer can brighten a room. Maybe you are cool under pressure and have the ability to help others navigate storms. God has given you gifts! Perhaps you don’t even realize the full extent of the power you have in Christ! Use your gifts and shine for God!

Real Gifts

A few months ago, I came across an old book I’d been given as a child. I opened it in the middle and an old pressed cloverleaf fell to the ground. Then a memory came to me. I was a little girl living in Colorado Springs when I came across a four-leaf clover in a patch of green summer grass. I remember thinking I would keep it forever.

Flash forward more than 30 years and, staring at that small dried leaf, my head was flooded with grainy sweet memories from childhood. I remembered the snow-topped mountains and hot dogs roasting over white coals. I thought about bouncing on the bed with footed pajamas and the smell of fresh baked cinnamon apples. I remembered the rabbit ears wrapped in tin foil that sat atop a black and white television and the spotty images of a man on the moon. I thought about Love's Baby Soft perfume and pots of frosted peppermint lip-gloss. Mom and Dad were young and healthy. My brothers made me laugh until I cried. There was no sickness or sadness or hurt. And it was all right there beaming at me in memories from that old pressed cloverleaf.

Then I thought about that old silver box. A box I couldn’t bear to look at for years. It struck me now as the perfect home for my special clover and all those warm gauzy memories. Two gifts from God, indeed.

(Photo by hodja. See flickr.com for restrictions.)

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