Memos from the Middle

Smack-Dab in the Middle of Living

Distractions and Idols

I sit in my study position at my study time ready to dig into the Word of the Lord. It is quiet as usual, just the way I like it. I breathe in deeply and out slowly with my eyes closed, getting my body, mind, and heart geared up for the time I’m going to commune with God. This is our sacred time. He and I meet here every morning. I look forward to it. In fact, I have come to need it. So why does my mind keep wandering?

“I wish,” my soul whispers, seemingly out of nowhere to God, “that when I am in the situations my mind keeps trailing off to that I would be distracted like this by God.” The magnitude of that almost cavalier thought strikes me, and I pause for a moment considering what that really means. “What if,” I being to question, more cognizant now, “my everyday situations, those that keep popping up when I sit down to study and pray, were constantly interrupted by God?”

Yesterday was a doozy of a day. From the very start, when I was in prayer, my heart was uneasy. I have come to associate these knee-time anxieties with God’s preparation for what is to come. I used to think I was being paranoid or creating my own miseries, and on some level that’s true, but when these apprehensions arise so early and so viscerally, I know it’s God telling me to be on alert.

To go into the minutiae of pettiness, discord, frustration, and confusion that peppered my day would be great entertainment for you, Friend, but alas! I just cannot go there. Suffice it to say that I ended the day with a stale glazed doughnut and escapist television, trying to forget my anger and disappointment with the world and myself, especially because I saw it coming and failed so miserably to act in accordance with the will of God.

So this morning, as I sit trying to pray, running through all the things I have to do and clean up and fix, making mental notes about strategies and plans I can put on paper before anyone else I know is awake, I don’t feel as near to God as I want to feel, as I need to feel. But thank God that Jesus stands in the gap for us and sends his Holy Spirit to advocate for and comfort us! In the moment I am most distracted and most desperately trying to wrangle my mind into submission for singular focus on God, I feel Him grab hold of my outstretched hand. I begin to read chapter after chapter, verse after verse attentively, and I hear Him.

“You’ve been asking for this,” He says, and I realize He’s right! I’ve been praying to be broken. I’ve been pleading with Him to straighten my path. I’ve been begging Him to show me where my 93% can be 100%, not taking shortcuts, not accepting almost right. I thought I knew where those areas were, but this morning in our sacred time he reveals to me exactly what I most need to see: everything that keeps me from focusing on Him, I’ve made into an idol.

I’m startled by the revelation at first. “I love you, God,” I protest. “Everything I’m doing is for Your glory!”

“Is it?” He asks, never letting go of my hand. I have to pause in reflection. The hot seat is now scorching, and I have no one but God staring intently at me, requiring an answer. My eyes dart to and fro, and I’m shifting in my seat, knowing that the answer must be “No.” My mind catapults back in time to the previous day: I see my manipulations. I see my need to control. I see my vainglory. I see my selfish ambition. I see how I’ve learned to expertly dress up my flaws in the uniform of discipleship and altruism.

“Jesus is not in this,” I confess. “Wow, He simply is not here!” I’m stunned by the acute understanding that a little bit off is principally off. I’m alarmed by the realization that my soul has been seeking answers long before my mind was ready to contemplate the question. It awakens me. It arrests me. “And if He isn’t here, I have to walk away from it, no matter how long it took me to build.”

All the things I was planning to do after my devotional time with God now seem futile. I sit on the couch with the sun starting to slide through my curtains pondering what it really means to let it all go. “You have to be okay with this,” I coach myself. “You cannot hold on to it. It’s not good fruit.”

Today, I see what God needs me to see: there are idols that need smashing in my life! And the conflict and strife I am experiencing are to get me right with God. Friend, because I have not always allowed God to interrupt my day (and remember that He is always at the door knocking), I have been unknowingly molding and worshiping idols. I have been so crafty, in fact, that I’ve hidden them away from myself! My soul has known for a while, which is why I’ve been so achingly in search of alignment. I pray that you question what has you so distracted and consider if you, too, have put up idols.

Heavenly Father,
When you answer prayer, you oftentimes do it in the most unexpected ways, but I thank you for always hearing me when my soul cries out to you. I am hurting right now, realizing that I’ve crafted and worshiped idols of my own design. My flesh is tearing as it realizes it has to let go of things it finds comfort in. I pray for your strength, Lord, as I smash these idols in my life. I pray that you help me see you in all things and turn from any behavior, mindset, or word that subtly re-erects those idols. Help me to plant my feet firmly on the rock and never again waver.

“They worshiped their idols, which became a snare unto them.” (Psalms 106: 36)


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