I came across a post by Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking that hit me like a sledge hammer. Can Natural Living Become An Idol? It had never occurred to me before that natural living, healthy foods, living organically or striving to live a natural lifestyle could be (gasp!)…. wrong. Idolatry? Not I!
Well now hold on a second, you say. Idols are shiny gold things they used in bible times or over in other countries. We North Americans don’t have such things.
No? Let’s examine that. What is the definition of an idol? In addition to our usual perception, Merriam Webster defines an idol as “an object of extreme devotion”.
Obsession. Something that consumes you. It can be an interest, a hobby, that that you pursue so vehemently that it crowds out things that matter more, like time with children, time with spouse, time with God, or perhaps you spend a great deal of money on a hobby… leaving you unable to pay tithe or afford food for your family.
Oh, yes. Idols are everywhere, probably MORE of a problem today than in ancient times. It’s pretty easy to obsess about something nowadays when we can have continual access to whatever we are passionate about via our electronic gadgets and the web.
So some honest reflection here: what are some things I have allowed to consume me… idols in my life? At times, I have been obsessive and fanatical about organic foods, vegan/vegetarianism, natural children’s toys (wood, fabric), cloth diapering, anti-vaccinating, modest dress, protecting my babies from
screen-time… I’m sure if I asked my husband he’d not only be nodding his head in agreement vigorously at this point, but he could probably add many more I’ve let slip my mind.
If you read the above blog post I referenced, I could assure you I am guilty off and on of everything she described. Are any of these things inherently bad? No. On the contrary, they are all noble pursuits, stemming from my desire to keep myself and my family healthy. That’s what’s so deceptive about it. Anything GOOD can (and will) be twisted and used to destroy us. This is a cunning tactic that Satan utilizes. Take food, for example. God gave us food to nourish and grow. But taken to excess, or extreme lack thereof, it can become someone’s vice. The same can occur with all sorts of noble social issues today.
Environmentalism and the Green Movement
Avoiding Genetically Modified foods
School vs Home school
Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding
Sure, I have opinions on all of the above issues, most people would. Putting them in a list doesn’t necessarily indicate wrongness or rightness. My point is that where it leaves the realm of good and noble is when you start judging others (this can be internal thoughts only or outward actions and words), refusing to have anything to do with others who feel differently, spending an exorbitant amount of time, money, or energies on the issue, neglecting your children or spouse because you are too focused on the issue, thinking constantly about the issue, feeling somewhat superior or elite compared to others who live differently, or maybe worst of all, neglecting your relationship with God because you are so busy pursuing your self-imposed “mission”. You don’t have to do all these things, even one can be a sign that a form of idolatry has entered your life.
I will admit, I am weak in this area, off and on, depending on the issue and my season of life. Nearly 10 years ago I was extremely fit, pursuing fitness with an obsession. My days revolved around when I was to workout. I looked down on what I saw to be lazy, frumpy moms who couldn’t get it together. I honestly felt there was no excuse to be out of shape. Then I got pregnant. And gained 50+ pounds during that pregnancy. (and 80 with the second babe). I was humbled immediately by the blessing of a NICU arrival, a colicky, high need, high strung infant. Life was brutal, I couldn’t even catch my breath. By the end of the first year I quite frankly had lowered my standards to the point where, if I could get through the day without going postal on anyone, it was a success. My figure was gone, my metabolism in the toilet, and all the times I had looked down my nose at other moms and sneered “there’s no excuse!” came back to haunt me fiercely.
OK, so a lot of humbling was going on. Did it make me perfect? Ha! Unfortunately, no. I am human. And I realize this will be a continuous life lesson, because as one idol is conquered, another one creeps in. Recently, I became obsessed with my position in the mommy wars. I caught myself, however, and stepped back before it got too ugly. Having an opinion is one thing… but if you find yourself seething in anger at home because of an online argument with total strangers you are carrying on (who, me?)… and if your kid is wearing pajamas all day with a snotty nose and just eating fruit loops because you are spending all your time at the computer, typing furiously about breastfeeding activism to groups you’ve never met (who, me?!)… chances are you’ve allowed that issue to consume you and become an idol.
Now please be patient with me. I’m learning, too. I’m going to slip up now and then. I’m sure within this month I’ll become obsessed with something and start tooting my horn about it excessively. I hope my husband mentions something gently and lovingly brings me back down to earth. He’s good about that. He’s had a lot of practice with me over the years. My Creator blessed me with intellect and passion in many areas… I just need to learn to balance that, and to remember that relationships… not issues… are what really matters in the end.