Thursday, February 26, 2009

Those Idols

My friend Sandy was recently in Kenya for a couple of weeks, doing some work on a hymnal that is being developed for/with the Lutherans there. She wrote back reports to some of us about her experiences, the people, the food, the living conditions, the worship, a safari they went on, etc.

While she was overseas, we here were getting news daily about what Congress was plotting planning and how the stock market is reacting, what's going on with unemployment, etc. A person begins to wonder about what's going to happen to our homes, our food supply, our electricity, and all our other luxuries.

It's easy to point fingers and notice how other people are spoiled, how other people expect too much, and how other people flip out over the prospect of losing their lattes and their annual Disneyworld trips. But betwixt the sermons recently and Sandy's letters, I began to realize that I too think I need certain things. Forget the "wants" like my computer or my piano or my stove. Forget a retirement account or savings. Forget gasoline for the car. Even if I can grasp the concept of living without those things, I still think I need a house with a furnace, or at least an apartment, or a spot in a homeless shelter. I think I need my medicine (non-Rx though it is) and my sight. I think I need to eat every day, maybe not every meal, but at least once a day. I think I need hot running water. The thought of losing those things reveals my idols, the things I am not willing to do without, the things that give me comfort, the things I depend upon.

And yet, if we don't have food, or we don't have walls and heat, or we don't have the basic necessities of life, what will happen? Through much of history, throughout much of the world, people don't have things that we think are necessary. And they lived through it. Look at the beatings and the imprisonments and the shipwrecks that the Apostle Paul lived through. Look at the living conditions during the Middle Ages. They lived through it. And if they didn't --if we don't-- well, to live is Christ, to die is gain.

The cross shall never take away
my joy and praise undying.
For when the heart is most oppressed,
the harp of joy is tuned the best,
the better strains are ringing.
The cross itself, at Jesus' will,
must aid my soul, that I may still
in grief His praise be singing. (ELH 150)

I'm really not fond of the idea that I'm going to be stripped of my idols. But maybe that's what it's going to take to learn to say with all truthfulness, "Into Your hands I commit my spirit."

Till then, though, a person certainly gains a new appreciation for the gifts and luxuries we still have. The chance to sit on a couch next to your husband in your own living room, watching a video. The safety to walk through the streets unharmed. A car to drive me to a grocery store where the shelves are nearly full. And a hot shower every single day.

When I think about this objectively, it sounds so scary. And yet, it's not. My God, my Lover, my King, my Savior -- He is the one who knows what is and is not coming. He is the one who works these things out for the good of His bride the Church. He is the one who is doing good to me, even if my senses don't feeeel the goodness. And contrary to what may make me quake in fear, there actually is some very real comfort in this. If He would take on my flesh and my sin, if He would die for me in a most agonizing death, if He would take me to heaven to reign with Him, how can anything bad come from what some piddly little kings and judges and rulers might decide?


  1. Susan,

    AMEN! (and thanks...I needed that)

    Jeannette M.

  2. This post and the previous one cover topics that I too have been thinking about, and of course many other people are wondering about the same things.

    Your final paragraph is exactly right. Steve Brown put it another way, which was also a good reminder for me:

    Thanks for your posts.

  3. There is a lot of good stuff in that link you cited, Barbara. On the one hand, I am always leery of sliding over into "God will take care of it" and having it [mis-]lead me into a theology of glory which says God will make everything hunky-dory here and now on earth. And yet, nevertheless, He WILL take care of it! Maybe here and now. Maybe by bringing us to glory at a younger age than we might've anticipated. Maybe through suffering here. Whatever it is, though, He WILL take care of it.

    I was so mad last week when I heard one of the talk-show hosts (I think it was Rush, but I can't say for sure) that we couldn't get this mess fixed, not by Congress who voted for the stimulus [sic] package, nor by the President, nor by savvy businessmen, nor even by God Himself. GASP! My first thought was "Somebody said the same thing about God not being able to sink the Titanic." My second thought was "How dare you! This is the God who totally turned things around financially in a day, ending the famine and the siege for Jehoram and the people Samaria." (This story in 2 Kings 6-7 follows right on the heels of the story where God let Elisha's servant see the armies of God surrounding them in protection.)

  4. Well, I hope it wasn't Rush who said that, but he can get pretty cocky and full of himself at times.

    That's a good example...and the fellow who doubted what Elisha had said about food being had for so much less was trampled and did not get to eat any of it. Hmmmm....there's a lesson there for sure!