28 Be careful to obey all these words that I command you today, so that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever, because you will be doing what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God.
29 When the Lord your God has cut off before you the nations whom you are about to enter to dispossess them, when you have dispossessed them and live in their land, 30 take care that you are not snared into imitating them, after they have been destroyed before you: do not inquire concerning their gods, saying, “How did these nations worship their gods? I also want to do the same.” 31 You must not do the same for the Lord your God, because every abhorrent thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods. They would even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. 32 You must diligently observe everything that I command you; do not add to it or take anything from it.
It is important to remember what really matters in our lives…
When my marriage fell apart I was a mess, I was not sleeping, grieving, and not feeling all that good about myself. Of course, I did not want my marriage to end…especially as it ended so very badly (but then again how can any marriage or significant relationship NOT end without some pain?). I was emotionally torn up, and I could only focus on recovering from the trauma of separation and taking care of my daughter.
However, this time was not all bad, in fact in many ways life was simpler, in crisis mode, my focus was narrow: when not at school or work, I was with my daughter. We played together for hours, I read to her, we explored the neighborhood, talked about what was happening between her mother and me (without casting any blame – which was not easy for me), and we worked at building a new family together, in a single-parent household.
I was literally taking life one day at a time, just sticking to the basics of what really matters in my life: the love I have for my daughter, my sobriety, those people who I depended upon for support and help, as well as my faith in the light of God’s love…which was so very important during that dark time in my life.
As the weeks and months went on, life improved, and we healed. By the Spring I had graduated from seminary and learned that my career as a Pastor was dead in the water, and by Fall I had found a ‘straight job’, had my daughter in day-care, and had even done some precarious dating!
Over the next few years our life together got more complex, and I lost focus on the things that really mattered in favor of trying to get ahead in life…almost as a way of proving to myself that I could ‘do it’ all: become a successful business person, the best single father ever, a great boyfriend, as well as a community leader through doing volunteer work. Of course none of these things worked out, but I spent a lot of time trying!
What I was really doing was idolizing an impossible ideal of what I could become, what I could achieve, while losing sight of what I already had in life…of what mattered most: my faith, and the love I shared with my daughter and those around me!
At the same time that I was busy chasing my false idol of success, my daughter was growing up and finding idols of her own in terms of music, fashions, trends, and then more seriously: friends who helped lead her off-track and into addiction and all the joys this affliction brought into our lives!
And it was her fall into addiction finally broke those idols…as the stress it caused contributed to my unemployment, took her out of school, ruined some good friendships and threw our lives into chaos…
Today I no longer chase an ethereal success (that was always unrealistic), and my daughter has also learned the price of addiction, and her drug of choice is no longer her idol, but her burden…not a bright and shiny path to freedom, but a dark and deadly prison!
We both have a long way to go, as our relationship still needs much healing…but we have re-discovered what matters most: the love we share together, our faith in a power greater than ourselves, and in the success that does not come from money but from building strong connections with others, and sharing our lives together.
As single parents, we can easily get caught up with idols of our own as we focus on the day to day challenges we face, the frustrations we feel, as well as the desire to make things better for ourselves and our children…but lose focus on what matters most. In today’s lesson, we are warned not to let anything become more important than love, and our relationship with God. For it is the love of God that can give us the light of hope when our world seems darkest, and can heal even the most broken relationship through the reconciliation of sharing our faith together, and helping each other through the rough spots in our lives.
And as we act together in faith, we are sharing God’s love with each other, and that is what truly matters most…as this love we share with others and with our children is more precious and powerful than any false idol!
Let us Pray:
God, help us not to let the things we idolize draw us away from what matters most in our lives: your gracious love which we share with our children and our loved ones. Let us share this love with each other, in a spirit of reconciliation, compassion and love, as we seek to heal lives and relationships broken by the idolatry of addiction, money, worry and frustration. For this love becomes more precious and powerful when it is shared; powerful enough to surround us with light in the midst of a world that can seem so very dark at times, and give us real hope that no false idol can provide.