You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…
Exodus 20:4-5a NLT
It’s a surreal question to ask, “How important is God to me?” The answer will most likely be, “Essential, in fact everything”, for we know this is the textbook response. However, the best way to establish where I hold God is to see what my life priorities look like. Is God central to everything I imagine and do? Sadly, for many years this was not true for me. I was engaged in the Lord’s work enthusiastically and diligently, yet there were many things longed for. My inner aching for material benefits and self-indulgence were forever alive within my mind.
As I’ve pursued the walk of a contemplative, I’ve wrestled with my understanding of prayer. For years this was something I knew I ‘ought’ to do. It was often dutiful yet joyless. Much like Christmas visits to ageing relatives as a child. Necessary at my parent’s insistence, yet often proving more of an interruption to Christmas than adding any real meaning. Consequently, I was often sullen on such visits, a mood that perhaps might have described my approach to prayer for many years.
Prayer is opening up the highway into heaven, it is the space in which we encounter the essence of God. It is a problem when many distractions fill my head and if pursued then occupy my life and demand the attention that I might have chosen to give to God.
God has no desire to ruin our life’s enjoyment. It’s simply I fail to grasp that God is the source of my life’s enjoyment. The longer I postpone my encounter through multiple distractions, my friendship atrophies and all I know of God is that which I learned in the first flush of enthusiasm in finding God’s love and acceptance. This is why God suggests we hold no idols, so nothing comes between our life experience and our love for God.
What are the idols in your life?
Lord God, may my heart worship only that which is truly worth all honour, glory and praise – you.
Photo – Belfast Harbour Commissioners offices