When we think of idolatry as believers in God who are familiar with scripture, what usually comes to mind is the golden calf the Israelites created. While Moses was on the mountain getting instructions from the real and only One True God, the Chosen people were already showing their faithlessness. We might also remember names like Baal, Moloch and Asherah. These were false idols who lured God’s elite tribe from his side into peril for their very souls. Truthfully, though, idolatry is what we commit if we put ANYTHING or ANYONE in the highest position of regard in our lives above the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
What the Israelites failed to consider was the potential cost of disobeying God in failing to keep Him first in their lives. For the next 40 years, they wandered, lost in the wilderness and unable to enter the land promised them by God. Like those poor souls so long ago, I failed to take into account personally what my sin cost me later in my life because I forgot that one eminently important commandment:
“Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” Exodus 20:1
During the years of the 1990s through the 2010s my sole purpose in life was loving and caring for my husband and three children. Everything I did was for love of them and intended to insure their well being and happiness. As my girls grew up and had children of their own, my love and devotion grew to include my grandchildren. There is absolutely nothing wrong with loving and caring for family, friends, and everyone else in your life. Love is GOOD. We are commanded to love others as we love ourselves.
But where was GOD’S place in the midst of that? Did I remember to say thank you for our loving family to the One who gave them to me? What about that perfect high paying job we were blessed with to support our family? Did I prioritize that support over our duties to God and His Church? Did I remember DAILY who was responsible for allowing us to keep that job? What was the absolute first priority in our lives? What or who SHOULD be the absolute priority in any life? I failed God utterly back then.
I came to know Christ as a personal savior and God the Father as my true father at the age of 7. I was baptized at 8. He marked me as His all those years ago. During the years between salvation and now, I wandered and strayed, at times rebelling against Him and knowingly going my own way. He patiently allows us to do this because FORCE is not in His nature. He requires and deserves obedience and loyalty but does not ask for slavery. So He DID allow me to walk out of His will… for a time. When he is ready to set us back on his path, I learned, it may cause us the devastation of a lifetime. It did when He came to claim me, because let me tell you this… anything we put between us and God the father, He will eventually REMOVE from His way. His intention is not to cause harm but to lovingly reconcile us to his fellowship.
In fall of 2012, He came for me and that was the first of my many reckonings. I had abandoned Him and He knew I needed Him desperately. My husband of seventeen years walked away abruptly one evening and filed for divorce. He wasn’t in love with me anymore. I was totally crushed. I lost my home as well as my husband. He was awarded the house in the proceedings. Within a couple of years, during which my disabled son and I struggled to survive, barely keeping ourselves fed and sheltered, both my daughters became estranged from me. They walked away about the same time my son was accused of a crime and was incarcerated and there he still remains. If we devote our whole self to anything above God the father, we risk losing it. We risk losing ourselves and everything else we are blessed to have. We risk everything we love.
Am I bitter? For a few years I was so angry with God I refused to pray. I railed and raged internally. He waited. I walked around denouncing my belief that God loved me. He waited. I refused to pick up a bible and let myself sink into a chasm of despair and self pity. Still, He waited. Eventually I began to see the truth of it all. The truth that my own sin had caused the destruction and I was reaping the devastation of sowing idolatry. The fabric of my family life had been self-contained instead of including God His place at front and center of my heart and my life. He reveals Himself in His timing as we are ready to believe and accept it. I saw my sin and though I will live with the pain of what it cost me for the rest of my life, I am beyond blessed and thankful that He loved me enough to come and get me. I truly believe my family and I will be restored in his timing. Maybe not until heaven but I believe in Him to do it in His own time. Check your heart and your life. Examine your motives. Who or what has the first and most important place? The answer to that may change everything.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Please search my heart and remove anything from my life that stands in the way of my personal and intimate relationship with you. Please forgive me, Lord, if I have allowed anything large or small to take any of my heart or mind away from You. Please, Lord bring me back to that first love I had for You on the day I recognized my own sin and Your divine salvation.
In Jesus name. Amen.
Karen Butler Ogle