May 27

Left on the Island of Idolatry and Isolation”

       When you hear the word “idolatry” what do you think of?  Natives from some isolated tribe bowing down to a wooden statue?  Or perhaps an ancient civilization that sacrifices their babies to a gigantic god carved out of stone, throwing them into a blazing fire high on a mountain at midnight… with drums beating in the background?

       The kind of idolatry that I want to address is not about statues of wood or images of stone, but things that become substitutes for the real thing.  Like a graven image, these idols represent our idea of ‘God’ and are, in a very real sense, a substitution for the real thing.

       There are numerous stories recorded in the Old Testament about the Israelites, how they had been warned about the false gods of the pagan nations around them, and how –  even though they’d  been warned – opened their homes to the demigods of wood and stone.  And just as the Israelites resisted these messages and ignored the warnings, I too had fallen into a rigid mid-set that resisted the warnings from God. 

       I had a better idea. I had a method of “worship” that left me feeling more in control.  I felt more self-reliant.  I needed to feel this way because as a child I felt deprived.  My basic need for food and shelter had been met; but my psychological and spiritual needs had not been met.  I guess you could say that I was ‘hell-bent’ on fulfilling these needs myself.  And as I continued to try to fill this hole in my heart, I fell deeper and deeper into a hell of my own making. 

       It takes great humility to be able to face the reality of who we are.  Arrogance and pride lead to an inflated idea of self:  I am divine; I am in control; I am all powerful…

       But humility is the character trait that marks a truly spiritual person:  Someone who accepts their imperfection, their humanity and their limitations (we are not limitless).  Humility is the ability to see accurately where we are in this universe.  It acknowledges our relationship to our Creator. 

       The addict has spent his/her whole life trying to control and manipulate.  The world is an insane and scary place where no one can be trusted.  ‘Acting out’ (or ‘using’) is a way of controlling how the addict feels; it is mood-altering behavior.  When an addict joins a twelve-step group he/she is introduced to the 12-Step recovery program.  Many addicts balk at the notion of “God” or “Higher Power.”  But that’s because they must deal with the issue of control.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Idolatry: The absence of gratitude