Idolizing the Ideal and Idealizing Idols


If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. CS Lewis

John Calvin stated in the Institutes that man’s heart is an idol factory. We spend our lives setting people, places, things, goals, jobs, whatever, on the pedestal of our hearts. We give them our time, our loyalty, our money and control of our actions and attitudes.

We then expect our idols to meet our needs. People should love us unconditionally, meet our every need and never fail us. Jobs should fulfill us and allow us to reach our financial goals. Homes should make us happy. Social circles should fill our every free moment. Food should comfort without creating unhealthy bodies. Because we have given these people or things our worship, we expect them to be worthy of our worship. We expect our gods to behave like God.

For a while that may occur. The person showers you with a rush of love and affection and attention. The job launches you into an adrenaline high and maybe even a new tax bracket. The friends are fun and make you feel like the life of the party. The smaller jeans make you feel confident. The extra helping of dinner or desert makes you feel comforted.

But then one day the person fails you. The job gets tough. The friends aren’t there in the hard time like they were in the good. The jeans get tight. The food doesn’t fill the hole in your heart. The idol doesn’t fulfill your expectation of meeting your need perfectly. So you work to get more of it. Surely more of a good thing is better, right? It doesn’t take long on the idol cycle to learn that no person, place or thing can stay on your pedestal without a lot of help from you. It takes a lot of excusing, overlooking and enabling to keep an idol in a place of worship. It takes a lot of work to keep an idol worthy of a position of worship.

Too bad we miss the fact that the God of the universe, the one our hearts were made to crave, does not need our help in the least to stay on that pedestal of worship. The Perfect One is worthy of our worship all on His own. We have no need of idealizing the Ideal.

When we place our focus of worship on the One True Object of worship, it frees us up to worship Him with reckless abandon. When we aren’t using our hands to tightly hold onto our idol, they are free to be raised in worship. When we aren’t using our mind to rationalize the pain and heartache caused by our idol, we are free to think well of Him and worship Him with our minds. When we aren’t spending our time chasing after relationships and things that are never fulfilling, we can spend our time drinking deeply from the well that never runs dry.

I find myself spending a lot of time and effort idealizing things I believe I am lacking. Keeping idols worthy of worship is exhausting. It’s unfair to place those expectations on those we place on our pedestals and unrealistic for any object. When I return my focus to what I have been given, I see that my true object of worship has supplied my every need in Christ Jesus. There is no need for multitasking when God alone is the object of our worship.

Worshiping God is easier because we do not have to work to idealize our object of worship. He is ideal in and of Himself, freeing us up to simply worship.

What idols are you exhausting yourself attempting to idealize? How can you free up your heart and mind to simply idolize the ideal instead of attempting to idealize your idols?

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One thought on “Idolizing the Ideal and Idealizing Idols

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