“But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak; eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.” (Ps 115:4-8)
I have not destroyed all of my idols. At times I still bow my knee to mute, blind, deaf and lame gods that somehow promise me security. Many idols I have destroyed. For things like Andrew’s teaching on idolatry I am grateful, because it makes plain the reality of idolatry. It has helped me to name and renounce some of my own sexual and relational idols. Other idols have been harder to identify—and because of that, I’m sure more exist.
Worshipping these gods renders the worshipper senseless. I have eyes and cannot see, ears and cannot hear, feet that cannot walk, a throat that cannot utter a sound. I am blind to the reality of idols in my life. I am foolish to the reality that though I turn to things other than God, I am left hungry, thirsty, alone and afraid. My needs are not only unmet but deadened by meaningless things. I’m worse off than before I compromised. Senseless.
It is a good starting point to acknowledge our senseless state before the Lord. We cannot “see it” ourselves because our idolatry has rendered us unconscious. So our prayer becomes: “Show me, Lord, where I’ve grown dull, blind and deaf; show me where I’ve given myself over to other gods. Open my eyes and break the power of this deception! Forgive me my foolishness!”
The Holy Spirit opened my eyes to an idol once as I was listening to this teaching at a national leadership training. Andrew mentioned the show Friends and how it trivialized sex between “friends.” Something stung in my heart. In the past, Friends had been a “girl’s night” activity my roommates and I would have—chatting, catching up and relaxing together. Eventually, I owned most of the seasons on DVD and would turn to Friends when I felt lonely and longed to regain the sense of connection I’d had with my roommates. Often I was emotionally spent and had nothing left to give but still longed for connections with others.
Though watching Friends indicated that I was not doing well emotionally, I still did not call it an idol. But hearing the television show referenced in a teaching on idolatry stung me and exposed the truth: I was lusting for Friends; it had become pornography to my soul. Friends filled a relational need and longing. By watching it I consumed images of “femaleness” in much the same way that I had turned to real women earlier in my struggles with gender insecurity. My eyes were eating of their flesh to fill my own longing for beauty. I was envying and at the same time ‘eating’ these women.
And it was fracturing my soul. It fractured my relationships. Instead of filling my need for intimacy and connection with other woman in a healthy manner, it was isolating me. I could have a “quick fix” of connection by watching the show without really having to connect and relate to another. Each time I spent “real time” with a bona fide human being, I could relate almost every interaction or experience to a Friends episode. Who wants to connect with that? How does sharing the plot of a television show deepen a relationship, really? For me, fictional life had begun to trump real-life experience.
It also fractured my soul sexually. Somehow these televised sexual experiences and encounters were trapped in my own imagination, as if they were my own experiences. When I would long for real sexual intimacy with my husband—legitimately and as God intended—my mind was instead distracted by memories and images of the cast and actors. Somehow I had “become one” emotionally with these fictional experiences and it was defiling my marriage bed. Disgusting.
Fortunately I had the opportunity of publicly confessing this idolatry with another Living Water’s small group leader and receiving prayer so that I could be healed. Soul ties were broken, images were cleansed and freedom began to be quickly released to my soul. But that wasn’t the end.
I was honest with my husband, and I committed to stop viewing old Friends episodes. But deep down I held onto the hope that when these relational and sexual needs were truly met and the power of this idolatry broken, the show would no longer have a hold on me, and I’d be able to watch it again without it becoming idolatrous.
So, feeling clean and sober after five months, I picked up the DVDs again. The end result was no different than the first. Giving up an idol means I have to feel the void it leaves; I have to sit in the emptiness and wait on my Father to meet me. I cannot return with clutching hands to stuff something else into the void. Idolatry left me senseless; the Father needs to heal that deadened part of my soul.
Waking up again to real life sometimes takes time, like when a limb falls asleep and slowly returns to normal sensation. But just as God hovered over the waters at creation, He hovers over those He loves and is making new. He cannot forget us; we’re engraved in His palm (Is 49:15-16).
It may be safe to adopt a mantra of “once an idol, always an idol,” because I’m not sure we could renounce an idol and then pick it up and play with it again. The truth is: there is no such thing as a healthy relationship with an idol. See it for the foolishness that it is. It must be renounced and its doorway into your life closed. Otherwise, its familiarity might leave you as it did before: blind, mute, dumb, lame. Senseless.