(First posted in March 2014 before our move to Waco, Texas.)
The number one idol is self. Why do we “lay up treasures where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19)? Do we really love our stuff that much? I don’t think so. We love the perception that it makes us okay, because if it all disappeared, we would be left with just ourselves, and that is a scary thought. Unconsciously, perhaps, we often see ourselves as valuable because of the lives we have built for ourselves.
I see a stage being set for a play. People are working to put all the props in place as they set the scene and adjust the lighting, sound, etcetera. When everything is ready and it’s time to begin the play, the actors then enter the stage. They deliver their scripted lines before the audience who, if they perform well, give their applause in approval. To a lesser or greater extent, that’s what we do. Much of our lives are spent performing. Without realizing it, we work on our “props” continually: our homes, our jobs, our appearance, even our children. And we feel okay about ourselves when the “audience” approves. These props serve as our self-protection, and when we protect ourselves, we become our own gods.
Jesus told the rich young ruler, “Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me,” (Mark 10:21). He wasn’t making a general statement that everyone should sell everything they own. He was looking into the young man’s heart, and he saw the idolatry. The young man believed he had kept all the commandments from youth (performance), but he still needed his “props” (self-protection), and he wasn’t willing to give them up.
I experienced a lot of change during my years as a widow. I sold the home where I had raised my children and bought a smaller house. Then I moved out of it and into an apartment in the city where I commuted to work. A few months later, I was homesick and moved back home. I sold that house when Mark and I got married and moved in with him. It took some time to make Mark’s home my own. Now after almost four years, every room is decorated and furnished to suit us as a couple. It meets our needs for ministry, for family gatherings, and for grandchildren to come and play. Now the Lord may be asking us to leave it all.
Mark and I are walking a narrow path in the ministry calling God has given us. We are waiting on him for direction as we have to make some huge decisions in the near future, mainly how we are to live as we wait for his promise for provision. We are praying about a less expensive living arrangement and maybe even a geographical move if that’s his will. My questions are “Can I do it joyfully? Will I be okay without all my props?”
Now I see an empty stage. You walk out to give your performance, but there is nothing on the stage–no props, no other actors, no scene. You feel exposed and vulnerable. What are you supposed to do without them? You look at the audience, and you see only one person, Jesus. Instead of giving a performance for him, with one look into his eyes, he fills you completely. It’s you and God alone. As he satisfies your soul and refreshes your spirit, then he sets the stage, all that you need to live out His will for you.
I’ve seen death up close and personal, and I know there are no more opportunities to trust him once we are in the grave. There will be no reason for exercising one’s faith in heaven. Jesus, I can’t make myself ready for such a big change. But I have experienced your faithfulness in the biggest storms of my life. I’ve seen how you’ve gone before me and prepared me. I know you are preparing me now. By your grace and mercy, help me to lay down my idol of self, of making myself okay. I trust you to meet me here. I want only your will. Amen.
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose,” Jim Elliott.