Uncovering Idols

Have you ever appreciated something, enjoyed an experience or valued a person?  Were you able to continue those feelings with that same level of involvement? Or over time, did you ever feel that which was good morphed into an obsession?  Did that good thing become something that demanded your thoughts, your time, your loyalty or your resources?

The other day I was thinking of how good things can turn into bad when we lose perspective. I think sometimes we transfer our hopes and dreams onto an image, experience or person wanting that object to be the end all and be all.  We are sadly disappointed because in the end, an object, an experience or a person are finite and flawed.

Rod of Asclepius.  Used in Greek mythology as symbol of healing. 

Rod of Asclepius.  Used in Greek mythology as symbol of healing. 

I was reading the story in the Old Testament of the Israelites and their on again, off again relationship with God.  In the book of Numbers (21:1-9), the people of Israel were complaining that their rescue from Egypt into the desert had them fearing that they would die. They spoke against God and Moses not believing that God would provide. Those who were disobedient were bitten by snakes and many died.  In their repentance they asked to be relieved of these fiery serpents.  God commanded Moses to make a serpent and set it on a pole. Anyone who was bitten by a serpent and looked at the staff would be healed. It was a good thing and had a specific purpose.  Unfortunately over time the Israelites forgot the main purpose of the staff and the staff became an object of worship.  Many years later, King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18: 4) had to remove and destroy the staff. That which was good became an idol. 

Whether one is religious or not,  I think that anything that loses perspective and purpose is susceptible to being idolized: the seemingly innocent relationships that turn into stalking, the goal of providing for one's family which becomes a workaholic nightmare, the stewardship of possessions that overrides relationships, the....(fill in the blank). 

Have you ever had something that originally was good turn into a problem or detriment? Are there things in your life that you feel are out of control?  Is it caused by obsession, worry, or fear? Would you say that you are idolizing that which is causing that obsession, worry or fear?  Have you become so worried about its possession that you are now possessed by it?  Do you fear that your relationship might end, so you cling to the other person even if it is unhealthy?

What would it take to step back and gain some perspective?  Does the item, situation, or relationship need to be "destroyed" in order to gain that perspective? 

I think in the story of the Israelites, if they had remembered their purpose that they were God's chosen people and that God wanted a relationship with them, they might not have turned a healing tool into a god. If I remember that my material possessions are just things, it is easier to accept if they get broken or lost. It is easier to share those possessions with others. If I remember that my loved ones- both family and friends- are flawed and broken, just as I am flawed and broken then I can related to them in a healthy way.  If I am grateful for the gifts and talents I possess then I will be humble in my use of them. 

If I keep my eyes on God and my heart close to His then I will not be susceptible to idols.