When I was 12, like every other girl I knew, I LOVED New Kids on the Block (they were a pop band that we all believed would be THE coolest for EVER. They weren’t). And I loved Teen Beat Magazine. Because when you bought a Teen Beat magazine, you could get the posters inside. My friends and I would grow genuinely excited when a new shipment came into the local gas station where we purchased our wares. We would pour over each choice, so that we could be sure to pick the magazine with the best posters that we could put up in our rooms. The best was if you had a friend that liked a different NKOTB band member than you – because then you could buy different magazines and trade your Danny poster for their Joe (although, seriously, whoever wanted Danny? Am I right ladies?). I had a couple of other favourites too. I also adored Kirk Cameron (from Growing Pains) and Neil Patrick Harris (from Doogie Howser, MD – because what is NOT awesome about a 16 year old Doctor?). My walls were covered with posters of all these guys. Thank-you Teen Beat!
I remember one day overhearing my mom talk to a friend of hers. They must have been talking about Doogie Howser, when my mom said: “Oh Leanne loves him. He is one of her idols.” I wasn’t very old, and my mom did not mean it negatively, but I remember that word making me uncomfortable. I had grown up in church so I knew that idols were bad. We weren’t supposed to have real idols, and I didn’t think I did. I mean, I didn’t WORSHIP my posters. I didn’t offer them sacrifices. I wasn’t as obsessive as some other people I knew. I hadn’t made a Kirk Cameron or a Neil Patrick Harris statue. I still loved Jesus! But Teen Beat didn’t have posters of Him.
Idols are tricky aren’t they? This week we talked about God’s first two commandments in Exodus 20.
1. You shall have no other gods before me.
2. Do not make idols (and don’t worship them, etc.)
One thing is clear in all of Scripture – God hates idolatry. And idolatry is not just when we worship little statues. Idolatry is when we turn anything (even a good thing) into an ultimate thing. It is when we allow that part of our lives to become the definition of our lives, when everything revolves around it.
I’m not sure I was committing true idolatry when I was a 12 year old with celebrity crushes. I liked the posters and I thought I liked the guys but I wasn’t particularly obsessive (although maybe my friends would say otherwise!). But now I think about what I hang on my walls. And that gets me thinking about what could be my idol today, and I have to confess that it would be children (whose pictures I just love to see on my fridge, on my walls and in my wallet!). There are so many reasons that I could turn my children into idols. I am, of course, crazy about them. I love them more than I thought I could love anything. They take up a lot of my heart. But with that there is the constant temptation to make all my life, and the life of our whole family, revolve around them and their happiness. We moms hear it every day.
Do you need a night out on your own? Yes, but you shouldn’t. The kids want you with them. Put them first.
Do you value going to church on Sundays? Yes, but, that’s the same day as swimming lessons. And good parents always put their kids’ desires first.
Do your kids want something that you can’t afford? Go in debt. They should have everything they want.
Where do you find your definition of self? It should be from being a mother. It should be from your KIDS. You must revolve everything around them. If that means losing friends, so be it. If that means losing yourself, so be it. If that means losing your mind, so be it!
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t give our kids time, nurture and love. I’m not saying that being a mother isn’t, or shouldn’t be, one of the biggest parts of who I am. Our children are precious and there are indeed many times that all of us as parents need to make sacrifices to put our kids first. But I do believe that if my children become my only thing – my ultimate thing – they have become my idol. The temptation to idolatry is always closer than we think.
And so I pray for no other gods besides the one true God, even if those gods are super cute little people who make me laugh and melt my heart. Because idols ultimately fail. Of course, I don’t believe my children will fail as people, but if they are my idols they will fail in the task I have unfairly given them. They will never be able to be the sole meaning for my life, because they have their own lives to live. And when they grow up, or move out, or push me away – I will still have my life to live, by God’s grace.
I’m glad 12 year old Leanne didn’t place all her sense of self in the idols of her youth. (Especially since it turns out that Neil Patrick Harris is gay – making my dreams of marrying him very unlikely!!). And I hope that at 50 I can also say that I avoided the idolatrous temptations with the idols of young motherhood (although, unlike with my posters – I’m sure I will still have pictures of my kids on my walls).
Where do you see temptations for idolatry? As a mom of young children, I see my own. Have your idols changed through the years? What have you learned about where we should find our ultimate meaning?