"They traded the glory of God, who holds the whole world in his hands, for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand." Romans 1:23 The Message Version.
Every time I read that I feel punched in my gut. A question's been in my head all morning:
How often do I do this?
First, what does it mean? From a historical perspective of the verse, in its context and very simplistically, it meant that the people of God had substituted false Gods...idols, images, statues of gods...for the real and true worship of the one God, the only God who has power.
Idolatry, in the modern sense, is anything in our lives we give more power and place than God. Money, work, entertainment, the gathering of stuff, ambition, power, books, shoes, True Blood...you name it.
I came across this quote which says it well:
"A careful reading of the Old and New Testaments shows that idolatry is nothing like the crude picture that springs to mind of a sculpture in some distant country. The idea is highly sophisticated, drawing together the complexities of motivation in individual psychology, the social environment, and also the unseen world. Idols are not just on pagan altars, but in well-educated human hearts and minds”
― Richard Keyes
Of course God wants us to have money and work and fun and shoes and books and well, you get the picture. But he does not want our lives so consumed with the externals that we lose our hearts or hoard all of our pleasures for ourselves and have no regard for the suffering around us. We will lose our hearts...our souls... if we sell them for the cheap roadside figurines that represent the "American Dream", all turned upside down with greed and gluttony and selfishness. Or whatever might represent the idols in your own life.
What do we gain when we go seeking the fake resin? We get junk and debt, not just financial but emotional and spiritual and mental debt too. The hole inside of us gets bigger because stuff can't fill it...not work or houses or cars or alcohol or sex or anything we can gain with our own hands. I love these words from "Roll Away Your Stone" by Mumford and Sons:
"Cause you told me that I would find a hole...
within the fragile substance of my soul.
And I have filled this void with things unreal...
and all the while my character it steals."
So true. I don't even want to think about the things I have attempted to fill the hole in my soul with...even recently. God knows them all.
We do indeed all have these holes in our souls. If we keep stuffing in all our fakeness...our illusions...then our holes are gonna become ocean sized or SPACE sized and every day on this Earth will be misery.
We can give our soul holes over to God and let His glory fill us up. What would that look like? Unconditional love...I will never leave you or forsake you...NEVER EVER...nothing you can do would make me love you any more or less...honestly I still have trouble wrapping my mind around that, especially when I think about all the things I have done to try to fill up the hole in my soul. It means purpose and adventure and no longer being consumed with self...to give life to others, hope to the hopeless...it means freedom from all the junk, inside and out, that possesses our lives. It would mean joy in the smallest things...a sunset or a rushing stream...things we can't own or hoard inside our homes or souls and there would be such peace at having a soul full of love instead of stuff.
Honest: I am humble today and learning. It is not so much a life event as an every day and every moment kind of thing. Or, rather, it is a BIG life event...giving the heart over to God...and then an every day every moment kind of thing...giving the heart over to God.
For some reason an old Newsboys song has been in my brain all morning as I have been contemplating and writing. It is a classic by them, Entertaining Angels, but when I say old I mean Maise as an infant and living in our 700 square foot garage apartment in Elliston Virginia kind of old. We saw them in concert in West Palm Beach six months after this song released...I met Peter Furler's dad at that concert...good memories and proof that all of life can change in an instant.
The song is on my mind because of the video too...in my brain I can see the family in the video trading the roadside stand figurines for the glory of God. Beautiful. Something else that is beautiful- Phil Joel's hair in the video. If pinterest would have been around back then, he surely would have been featured on a hair board for "Messy Buns While Shooting a Music Video"...yes?
So listen and enjoy. And consider your own soul hole...how are you going to fill it today? Will it be with the meaningless or with love?
Cheers. (Because there are some Aussie men in this video.) And peace.