After that golden morning on the beach, when the Lord decided I had had enough cossetting and now needed to take the next step of my journey to healing and maturity, everything seemed to slow down as I wrestled with the truth of what I felt He was saying to me.
Every passage I read, every verse, mentioned the word ‘idol’, so I was in no doubt that what I had heard Him say was right. But it was going to take time and effort to unpack exactly what the Lord meant. I also had to figure out how it had happened, if I was to truly exorcise this sin from my life.
Whenever I am seeking clarity I revert to the dictionary. The definitions of idol, idolatry, idolize were pretty much as I expected:
image of deity used as object of worship; false god; person or thing that is the object of excessive devotion; false mental conception
except for the last two.
I had to ask myself some searching questions: did I lavish excessive devotion on my husband? My sons? My situation? My status as a victim?
This brought me to the meaning of ‘devotion’. If it meant the amount of time and energy spent thinking about them, doing what all I felt I needed in order to get them and me to where I wanted us to be, then yes, excessive was the right word, and so was devotion, because I was involved with them pretty much all my waking hours. There were few minutes in each day when I did not think about my husband, our relationship, the effects on my sons, my desperation over all of it.
Every thought, every action, reaction, was filtered through my pain, and through my ignorance of my standing in Christ. I felt that sinking feeling as I began to see my life through the Father’s eyes, measured it against the standard of Christ’s perfection and realised that I came up desperately short.
So how did I set about unfurling this idolatrous heart of mine?
I had no choice but to trust the Lord to take me through this. Two verses wormed their way into my life, as they tend to when the Holy Spirit is at work:
Psalms 139v23 – Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties.
Philippians 4 vv6,7: be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
Do you know what a relief it was to be be able to confess how scared I was? That indeed I was filled with anxiety, and its cousins, anger and resentment. I realised I was scared to let go of these emotions because if I did, maybe I would never be avenged, there would be no retribution, and I would have lost the battle I had been fighting for almost half my life.
While much of my anger was justified, and the hurt was real, it is what I did with them that mattered. Time and again I had read the scriptures on anger, not to sin as a result of it, not to let the sun go down on it, and I had really tried to be obedient to those scriptures. But we often bury instead of release, and think we have dealt with the sin. And so we come to resentment, that bitter root that we are warned about in Hebrews 12v15
Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.
I felt myself wince as I read this with new understanding. How many had been defiled by the bitterness in my soul?
How had this come about? I found the answer in Deuteronomy 29v18. The Lord is warning the Israelites about the foreign gods in the promised land:
So that there may not be among you man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations, and that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood
It couldn’t be clearer. If we serve foreign gods, we run the risk of becoming bitter and miserable.
I want to say here, that throughout this time, the Lord dealt so gently with me. He was teaching me a tough lesson in a loving way – you know when the Lord is in control when there is no feeling of condemnation, simply a desire to be rid of anything that separates us from our Father.
Anxieties. I had many of them and one of the biggest was money, particularly the shortage of it. Because it was used to control me, money took on greater significance than it should have. If I was going to be secure financially, I would have to make sure I earned enough. And if I did, and he found out that I had a source of income, he would make sure he fleeced me of it. So I lived a double life, actually, I lived a number of double lives, having to be dishonest, and always afraid of being caught.
When I had to make up shortfalls, or pay my share of holidays, whatever ploy was invoked, it would entrench the lies into my psyche:
You cannot make it on your own, you don’t understand how money works, you will never make enough.
Our situations may be different, but the message is the same. YOU CANNOT cope without me! Over time we begin to believe the lie.
I still have anger, deep seated and unrecognised. I still have to take a stand against my anxieties, my fears for the future. These manifest when I least expect them to, but when they do I thank my Father because I know how to deal with them, to hand over to Him, recognise that He is the best custodian of all my fears, anxieties, shortcomings, but most of all He has my future in His hands, and I can trust Him with it.