March 25th, 2004


Idols and cisterns

No strength of nature can suffice
To serve the Lord aright;
And what she has, she misapplies,
For want of clearer light.

How long beneath the Law I lay
In bondage and distress!
I toiled the precept to obey,
But toiled without success.

Then to abstain from outward sin
Was more than I could do;
Now, if I feel its power within,
I feel I hate it too.

Then all my servile works were done
A righteousness to raise;
Now, freely chosen in the Son,
I freely choose His ways.

What shall I do was then the word,
That I may worthier grow?
What shall I render to the Lord?
Is my inquiry now.

To see the Law by Christ fulfilled,
And hear His pardoning voice;
Changes a slave into a child,
And duty into choice.

—William Cowper, 1779

I'm learning that God's love is jealous. If I pursue anything with more zeal than I pursue Him, it's an idol. If He loves me, He has to take it off the pedestal some way, or even destroy it. That's even true of good things, like relationships, family, work, art, success, pleasure, security, or approval. It's as true of my future plans and dreams as it is of my present. If I desire anything above Him, He has to knock that thing down.

It's a good thing. Idols never come through or satisfy. They are broken, cracked, dirty cisterns (Jeremiah 2:11-13). If I drink from them, I get sick. The problem isn't my desires; it's how I try to fulfill them. I drink in the wrong things, and thank God I am sick and unsatisfied when I do.

Even LiveJournal and the internet became an idol of sorts for me—I'd drink it in for relationship, stimulation, approval, and comfort. Nothing wrong with those desires, or with LJ or the net themselves. But I let things get in the wrong order somehow and needed a step back for a few days to figure out what was wrong.

(I'm even learning from a lesson from Superman, of all people.)

This is, of course, far from my only idol. My Abba is good to me, waking me up and assuring me that He is indeed the fountain of living waters.
  • Current Music
    Four Tet, "Slow Jam"