I'm still on the Madeleine L'Engle quote binge, mostly because I'm trying to jump-start my journaling mechanism again...
Too often we are tempted to turn and worship the icon, and that is idolatry. The golden calf of the Israelites In the wilderness is the prototypical idol, the man-made creature which was worshiped instead of the Creator, dead metal rather than Living Maker.
After the flight from Egypt, the amazing journey through the Red Sea, the long years of trekking towards the Promised Land, Moses was over-long talking with God, and the impatient and anxious people felt abandoned both by Moses and God. They said to Aaron, "Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him."
And Aaron (what was he thinking of? We would have expected better of him!) said unto them, "Break off the golden earrings, which are In the ears of your wives, and of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me." And Aaron melted down all the jewelry which was given him and made a golden calf, and "He built an altar before it."
Aaron and the people did what God had clearly forbidden: "They made a calf in Horeb, and worshiped the molten image. Thus they turned their glory into the similitude of a calf that eats hay" They tried to turn their idol into a god and of course it did not work; it never does.
And Moses, coming down from the mountain after talking with God, saw the golden calf and the people dancing around it, and he was furious, and told Aaron so in no uncertain terms. Aaron defended himself, explaining that the people wanted gods to go with them, and they didn't know where Moses was, so Aaron took their gold, and threw it into the fire, and "Out came this calf"! Rationalizing and alibi-ing, just as we still do today: Who, me? I had nothing to do with it. Out came this calf!
An icon does not have to be an idol. An icon should give us glimpses of our God who is both immanent and transcendent, knowable and unknowable. If an icon becomes more important to us than what it reveals of God, then it becomes a golden calf, but this does not need to happen. (Madeleine L'Engle, Penguins and Golden Calves, p. 19)
Last year, I used this quote as part of a journal entry... I want to revisit the entry and expand on it a bit.
Last week I wrote in response to my reading:
I have a tendency to think of dealing with addictions as just living without whatever it is I'm addicted to. That's part of the shame cycle, especially if a significant part of the shame has to do with convincing other people that I'm better--and it usually does. So I just live without the substance but don't deal with the underlying causes of the addictive behavior. It can usually work for a while, but then I run into a triggering situation again--or the shame itself can be triggering because I'm having to live without something that maybe I should be able to have in moderation and perhaps could have in moderation once those issues were dealt with, but I don't have the freedom to deal with the issues because my perception is that the people around me don't recognize the issues behind the addiction but only the addiction. So I go on burying the real problems and "treating" the perceived problems, and eventually the "treatment" fails because it was doomed from the start.
Now that I've written out that little gem, what am I addicted to? I honestly don't know right now... Part of me thinks that I'm somewhat addicted to talking to people: I've noticed that I absolutely hate quiet during the day, and I hate mindless noise like TV or radio unless I'm focused on something like writing. So when I'm not writing or reading, I must have someone to talk to. I'm making a more conscious effort to confront this, but it's very difficult for me and it hurts. I've been trying to choose to do at least one or two tasks during the day without trying to call someone, and it's very hard because it feels like I'm punishing myself. Then when I come in here and try to do something that addresses my spiritual life, the little bell goes off that says that God just wants me alone because He wants me all to Himself and He doesn't care how I feel. I know better, but I do know that He doesn't want me putting other people before Him and there are times when I do things alone that He puts neat thoughts in my head. By filling up my mind with other conversations, I'm blotting out any chance of Him speaking to me--and then I have the nerve to say He is ignoring me??? Yes, I do--and that's painful to realize.
I'm kind of reeling with this... I knew it was inside me, but I didn't realize it was so big. There's a bit more to it: things like my use of sleeping and working on projects to avoid any activity that I cannot tolerate doing without interpersonal interaction. The only time I can tolerate an activity like cleaning the house without interpersonal interaction is when it leads to some kind of goal, like having company or going on a trip. I can't do it "just for me," which is what my mom always suggests. Maybe that's disrespectful to myself, but mostly I think it's just a feeling of distaste for my aloneness and a feeling that doing something "just for me" is really just a reminder of how alone I am.
All of this leads me to some conclusions. I have some problems with putting things in my life before God... But more importantly, I have a problem with not trusting in God's goodness, provision, and love for me. These are the real issues I need to address. I can't address the problem simply by ceasing to put things before God. I have to address the problem by putting God first, and in doing that all other things will naturally fall into the places where they belong. There is a deep truth in the song, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus ... and the things of earth will grow strangely dim..." I have been trying to handle the problem by controlling the amount of time I spend on this or that... As Gandalf says to Bilbo in the Fellowship of the Ring, "You've still got the ring in your pocket."
Last week, I had a discussion with someone about the concept of giving up things for Lent. She asked me what I was going to give up... I confessed that I've been having difficulty with the practice because it seems like an empty routine to me. I have never been a person who practices empty routines. If I can't do it with all my heart, I don't do it; and regarding Lent, I feel that the point isn't the sacrifice but the impact it has on the way that I live my life. I could give up chocolate cupcakes; but if after Easter Sunday I intend to go right back to eating them as I normally do, there is no point in the exercise. It has had no lasting impact on my life, and I don't think it is anything that God would accept. What is an acceptable sacrifice unto the Lord? Not this!
So I will honestly tell you that I did not give up anything for Lent. In case this seems awful, I will also tell you that this does not mean that I have not had an encounter with Jesus. That is for another entry--and incidentally, that entry will not include a Madeleine L'Engle quote.