C.S. Lewis provides such beautifully rich imagery in his Chronicles of Narnia series. A passage from the “The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader” resonates deeply within me. Eustace, a rotten and annoying boy, finds himself in possession of a huge fortune. Gold and rubies were everywhere and he couldn’t help but imagine a rich life and the new comforts he could enjoy in the midst of this treasure. He lies down in the midst of his vastly great possession, utterly satisfied and falls asleep.
While sleeping on a cache of gold and fortune with “greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart,” he woke up and to his own terror he had become green personified… a dragon himself. He was transformed into a miserable, lonely beast, cut off from humanity. Over and over, he tried to scrape off the skin, but there was absolutely nothing he could do to shed his rough, scaly dragon skin.
In mercy and grace, Aslan the Lion appeared one night while he was lying helpless and hopeless. Aslan said to him, “You will have to let me undress you.” Eustace was afraid of Aslan’s claws, but he was terribly desperate. In anxiousness and humility, Eustace lied down flat on his back for Aslan to undress him.
“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.
He peeled the beastly stuff right off-just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt-and there it was lying on the grass; only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobby looking that the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. I’d turned into a boy again.”
I feel like Eustace.
Several weeks ago, God began revealing to me one of the most destructive idols in my life…my very own husband. I have voluntarily placed my husband in God’s place. I trust my husband more than I trust God. I desire my husband more than I desire God. I give more attention to my husband more than I give to God. I love my husband more than I love God. I treasure my husband more than I treasure God. I even look to my husband to be my savior, a responsibility that only Jesus is fully capable to handle. Tears slowly rolled down my cheeks as I began to see the ways I have misplaced God in my life. This was so embarrassing. I have been a Christian for years and I am a pastor’s wife, heavily involved in my church and I was replacing the Savior of the world with fallible man. In essence, I was cheating on my “true” Husband (Jesus) with my husband (Rony). I so desperately wish this was a lie and I could loudly deny this idolatry. What God was showing me was true to its very core…I considered my husband a greater, more powerful gift than Jesus Christ. What a dangerous place I had found myself in.
I trust my husband more than I trust God. I desire my husband more than I desire God. I give more attention to my husband more than I give to God. I love my husband more than I love God. I treasure my husband more than I treasure God.
Idolatry poisons us and our relationships with others because we will end up using others to fuel our Idol worship.
Idolatry lies to us about truth and is a lie about who Jesus is. Idolatry deceives us and moves us to believe that a life without Jesus is better than a life with him. There have been moments in my marriage where I have wondered if Rony passed away, who would I be more excited to see when I get to Heaven, Jesus or Rony?
Idolatry destroys us and offends God. As a result, God’s wrath comes upon the idolater because God is jealous for me and you. God’s jealousy, however, is different from our jealousy. God’s jealousy is righteous and he is deserving of our strongest affections and admiration. John Piper says, God created us to discover “our greatest joy when he is our greatest treasure. God is jealous that he be honored by being treasured and he is jealous that we be satisfied by treasuring him. He is jealous in a loving way and he is jealous in a righteous way. And if we find God to be so boring or so negligible that we must put our things in his place that really satisfy us more than he does, then we not only offend him, but we also destroy ourselves.”
Tears slowly rolled down my cheeks as I began to see the ways I have misplaced God in my life.
In The Holiness of God, R.C. Sproul writes, “Loving a holy God is beyond our moral power. The only kind of God we can love by our sinful nature is an unholy god, an idol made by our own hands. Unless we are born in the Spirit of God, unless God sheds His holy love in our hearts, unless He stoops in His grace to change our hearts, we will not love Him…To love a holy God requires grace, grace strong enough to pierce our hardened hearts and awaken our moribund souls.”
Coming face to face with my grave lack of affection and admiration towards Jesus is humiliating. Why? Truthfully, Jesus is the only one who is truly deserving of it. Over the last several days and weeks, I have literally felt as if God shoved his hand deeply into my chest and is slowly ripping out the ways I have idolized my husband. Just the other day, I was flooded in remorse and heartache after a huge fight with Rony. While trying to resolve our conflict, God revealed to me that I was more distraught about the ways I sinned against my husband than the ways I had sinned against God himself.
God was (and still is) wrecking me by showing me the ways that I am consistently hurting my relationship with Him. Not only that, but he is also making known to me the ways that I have been hurting my marriage by setting my husband up for failure to lead me well. The root of all of it lying in my inability to love and trust God. God is destroying my idol. It’s beautiful that God would choose to sanctify me in this way and awaken my soul to himself, but honestly, it hurts. It hurts deep. Just like Eustace said, “it hurts worse than anything.” It is so painful accepting how many times I choose myself and what I desire over Jesus. As the age-old hymn declares, I really am “prone to wander…prone to leave the God I love.”
When God rips out my flesh, quite notably a flesh that I cannot rip out on my own, he is transforming my hardened heart. I need the saving grace of Jesus to sanctify my soul to make me more like him.
John 15: 1-4 says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”
Having my “flesh clawed off” has revealed something radical to me.
Without Jesus and his work in and through me, I am nothing. I am incapable of escaping the brutal reality of my Idolatry.
I am profoundly aware of my need for a Savior. In these last several days, I have found myself humbly submitting to the throne of God as he is tearing out the rough, scaly parts of my heart. At times I feel like I can’t even breath because I recognize that God is allowing me to be in situations where I have to decide who I will place my trust in to lead me and give me HOPE, Rony or God? My flesh so strongly wants to choose Rony because there is a part of me that believes that God will fail me and that he does not really care about me. A lie from the enemy! A lie produced from idolatry.
At times I feel like I can’t even breath because I recognize that God is allowing me to be in situations where I have to decide who I will place my trust in to lead me and give me HOPE, Rony or God?
God is plucking out areas of sin in my life and although it is overwhelming and hard, I believe it is for my good and for his glory.
Choosing Jesus above everything else is not the natural reflex of our human hearts.
But one thing remains…my suffering as a sinner is only the first verse. As Shane and Shane says in their song Embracing Accusations, “The Devil is singing over me an age-old song that I am cursed and gone astray. Singing the first verse so conveniently over me, he’s forgotten the refrain: Jesus saves!” The triumphal chorus is that I have been rescued, redeemed and restored by Jesus Christ. He is jealous for me and his affections for me are greater than anything I have ever known. He is worthy of my trust, admiration and deepest affection.
“God’s grace invites you to be part of something that is far greater than your boldest and most expansive dream. His grace cuts a hole in your self-built prison and invites you to step into something huge, so significant that only one word in the Bible can adequately capture it. That word is glory.” -Paul David Tripp, A Quest For More: Living For Something Bigger Than You