“Lobby, Lobby, Lobby!”
My son was wailing for his stuffed lobster. He had gotten it as a comfort after a particularly hard doctor appointment just days before. But he had been practicing aggression and destruction as ways to deal with disappointment, so he kicked it across the hall when he didn’t get a lollypop like his sister. By the time we had dealt with his other poor behavior, the small lobster was nowhere to be seen.
And he wailed and wailed until my husband said, “I can buy you a new lobster. Listen to ME!”
My son was crushed when his toy was gone because he was focusing on the gift rather than on the giver, the one who can give him more gifts.
We do that, too. We put people and relationships in the places of meeting our needs instead of God. This is relational idolatry.
Idolatry itself is summed up well in Romans 1:25: “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator”.
In relational idolatry, we exchange the truth of God- that He alone meets all our needs for love and belonging- for a lie- I can get my needs met by this person. We are worshipping created things rather than our Creator.
For instance, my husband is GREAT at meeting all our financial, emotional, electronic, and problem-solving needs in our family. Several years ago, his health got really bad. My mind started strategizing, worrying about what I would do to meet our needs if he were gone. I tried to take control by worrying about his meds, food, sleep, whatever I needed to do to make sure he wasn’t taken from me.
This is a form of worship and places my trust, my sense of security, in a created being rather than in my Creator.
Hold Tightly to the Giver
So what do we do instead? Overcoming relational idolatry involves holding loosely to the gift and tightly to the Giver.
The answer lies in recognizing the truth. There is a difference between the gift and the Giver.
God forms our relationships – marriage, family, friendships – to be a conduit of how He meets our needs. My husband who provides financial and emotional security is a gift. But he’s not my Giver.
I have found healing and freedom in my relational idolatry toward my husband when I could start to say “if my husband dies, the same Provider Who gave me this gift will still do His job as Provider.”
Here are three suggestions that help me hold loosely to the gift and tightly to the Giver:
- Give thanks. While I might regularly thank my husband for being awesome, I do best when I also regularly thank God Who gave me this amazing husband. Practicing gratitude, giving thanks, increases our love and connection to God. It’s all over the Bible as a solution; try it out!
- Replace lies with truth. Recognizing and confessing relational idolatry begins the restoration of relationship, but there are still those lies that must be addressed. And deep lies are best broken when they are repeatedly challenged with the Truth. For me, this looked like repeating Bible verses in my head to combat anxious, idolatrous thoughts. “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory” (Phil 4:9) was on repeat when I would slip into the “what would I do if” thinking.
- Intentionally worship the Giver. Worship, rather than just singing songs, is focusing on Who God is and what He’s done. So let’s do that! It might mean having more Christian music playing, adjusting my thought life by setting my mind on things above, not earthly things.
As we focus on God throughout each day, we grow closer and we hold Him tighter. And our relationship with our Giver allows us to hold the gifts He’s given more loosely.
We still love them, but we won’t wail when our lobster is gone.
Because our Giver isn’t going anywhere.
Copyright 2019, Jo Leggett