Thursday, August 20, 2015

Grownups Call Them Idols

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. I John 5:21

Tears rolled down her face like big glass marbles as she threw her head back and wailed. Posture bent with anxiety, my little girl was completely stressed out. 

The culprit causing her unhappiness was entirely unworthy of such a response. 

However, here we sat, and I could not reason with her. The source of her distress was a simple desire for something she could not have. At least not yet.

The desire had grown dearer, and bigger, and taller, until it loomed over her like a giant ready to stomp out her peace. 

I knew this was the heart of the matter, but addressing it in a way she could understand was a different challenge altogether. 

In her mind and the reality of her present moment, it was all about a toy.

While she sat in her bedroom to calm herself, I washed dishes and prayed for wisdom to show her the heart of the matter. Lecturing a seven-year-old that Jesus is more important than a toy seemed it would surely fall on very deaf ears.

As I scrubbed the cheese off the omelet pan, one of my sons who is a few years older looked at me and said, “Mom, it’s just an idol.”

Thunk! Did he just say that? Did that teaching actually sink into him back when it was his turn? I was a bit flabbergasted. I had watched each of my other two older children go through this difficult lesson, and had hoped they understood when I guided each to examine his heart for anything that had become more important than God.

We are all surely tempted at times by things we want but cannot have when we want them. The desire tempts us, drags us away, and makes us miserable. It becomes an idol, more important to us than God. Unfortunately, whether it is an adult with a dream or a child with a toy, the result is the same. Death.

But how to communicate such a heavy truth that lies within such a common experience to a little child?

Then the thought occurred to me that I really should ask my sage son how he would explain this to a little child. My adult brain was stuck in theologisms and grown-up lingo. Why not ask a kid? I could always thank him and quietly dismiss his advice if it was wacky.  But right now, I needed a kid-culture advisor, someone who could put it in a language a child could understand. 

To my surprise and joy he immediately rose to the occasion, even adjusting his voice to a compassionate, I-am-teaching-a-little-child voice. 

Idolatry, According to an Eleven-Year-Old

"Well, I would begin by asking, 'What is something you love very much?' Let’s say she says Minecraft. (Something he loves very much). 'Well, sometimes we love something sooooo much that it gets in between us and Jesus, and we begin to love it more than Him. Grownups call it an idol, but really it’s a Robber. It steals our love for Jesus and makes us cry.'"
When asked what action he might take then, to discipline, or correct, he said, “Just watch over her and take care of her. Be patient until she understands. Love on her and she will understand faster.”

Wow. Thanks. I am feeling convicted now.

Awhile later, my daughter came downstairs for dinner. She was quiet and calm, and no longer anxious. I took the opportunity to talk with her, using much of the wording my sweet son had given like a grace-gift. Her eyes widened with understanding. The words were just exactly right.

Later at bedtime, she prayed, “Jesus, thank you for You. Most of all for You. More than the toy I wanted. I love you very much.”

The toy had been bumped off the throne of her heart, and my heart had been filled from an unexpected place. 

Grownups call it an idol, but really it’s a Robber. 

Parents, when is the last time we asked God to reveal the idols in our lives? Has a Robber stolen your love for Jesus lately? Let’s not be so busy helping our children identify theirs that we neglect our own. 

Have you been humbled by your child’s perspective on a weighty issue? Share with us the story!


Grownups call it an idol, but really it’s a Robber. (Click to Tweet)

Don’t be so busy shepherding your child’s heart that you neglect your own. (Click to Tweet)

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