Time for another object lesson.
Someone gave us an iPad as a wedding gift. He ordered it online, and I began tracking it instantly. I got the shipment notification on a Friday with a projected Wednesday delivery date, six days later. I was okay with that. I could easily wait six days. I love all things Apple (as all real Christians do) and was excited to get it, but I have a lot going on these days and had some real perspective in that an object (even an Apple object) was not going to bring me joy, was not going to get my errands run, was not going to clean our kitchen or do our laundry, and was not going to spend quality time with my incredible husband and stepson. (Granted, Apple may devise such a product in the future to accomplish all these things, but for now, I have to have priorities.)
It’s important to note that my iPhone is an extra limb of mine. I take it everywhere with me, except for the shower. I’ve thought about my dependency on it before, usually sparked by panic from realizing I didn’t have it within an arm’s reach. I sometimes wonder, “Am I more dependent on my iPhone than on Jesus? Do I care more about it than reading the Word or praising God?” And my amazingly wonderful answer, “Well, my iPhone has the Bible on it…and worship music…and prayer requests…”
As the days have ticked by, I’ve gradually gotten more and more obsessed with the iPad on its way to us. I’ve repeatedly looked at the specs online, perused the app store on iTunes, found the perfect case for it, planned the main things I’m going to use it for and all the accessories I’ll need to get for it, and even pictured what it’ll look like in my hands.
So imagine my elation when I pulled up the tracking screen yesterday (just to check) and discovered that the iPad was already in town and out for delivery, two days before its scheduled delivery date. The problem was, it was to be delivered to my old roommate’s duplex, she was in class until noon, and I had no way of knowing when it would be delivered.
So imagine my devastation when I refreshed the tracking screen for the thirtieth time in two hours and discovered that they had attempted to deliver it, found that no one was home to sign for it, and left. I was instantly cranky. The note on the door said I could pick it up after 7:00 yesterday evening. Our church’s prayer gathering lasts from 7:15-8:15, so Ronnie and I planned to stop by Fed Ex as soon as the gathering was over to pick up the iPad.
The prayer gathering, by the way, was incredible. It’s always awesome feeling the Spirit move and seeing the way God is working in those around us. Ronnie and I left the meeting still focused on God and his work in our friends’ lives. I called Fed Ex to find out if I needed the delivery attempt slip (that I didn’t have) and the woman on the phone told me the Fed Ex office closed at 8:30, about one minute before. So what did I do? Um, what I didn’t do was show love. I demanded to know how I could get it, why they would try to deliver it again the next day at the same time knowing that someone probably wouldn’t be there at 10:00 on a weekday morning (“that doesn’t make any sense to me!”), and was just generally unpleasant. I was grumpy and cranky for about the next hour or so, pouting and feeling sorry for myself and trying to justify it by saying I needed it for us, for Ronnie and I do to a crossword before bed (our new nightly tradition) on a bigger screen than just my iPhone. I kept thinking, “Didn’t you just leave an amazing prayer meeting and feel the Spirit of God move? What are you DOing?!” but I kept telling myself to shut up.
Now I shift gears.
God has been teaching me a very specific lesson for literally the past eight months. It’s an answer to a question I’ve often asked, really.
Throughout the gospel, Jesus repeatedly says that those who have ears to hear should listen and understand. Well, duh they have ears to hear. Really, Jesus, what are you talking about? So when I looked to study notes for further explanation, it usually referred me back to Isaiah 6: “Harden the hearts of these people. Plug their ears and shut their eyes. That way, they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts and turn to me for healing.” (Verse 10)
Yeah, as Mom would say, that’s as clear as mud. Why are their hearts hardened? Why does Jesus talk SO MUCH about it? Why does he say to the disciples in Matthew, “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear” (13:16)? Don’t pretty much all people see with their eyes and hear with their ears?
Then, one day last November, I finally came upon what I believe to be the answer, and it was so important to God that he included it in two separate Psalms, 115 and 135. Here’s 135:15-18: “The idols of the nations are merely things of silver and gold, shaped by human hands. They have mouths but cannot speak, and eyes but cannot see. They have ears but cannot hear, and noses but cannot smell. And those who make idols are just like them, as are all who trust in them.”
The reason Jesus talks so much about people with eyes to see and ears to hear is because some people do have eyes that can’t see and ears that can’t hear. The people who make idols and the people who trust in idols become exactly like whatever it is they’re idolizing. It’s like an extreme form of the you-are-what-you-eat mantra. It’s like Matthew 6:21, “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” The idol worshipers are so focused on building their idols or worshiping their idols they can’t see or hear anything to the contrary. And, especially in the Bible, we know it was a huge problem. Repeatedly in the Old Testament God commands people to destroy idols and tear down idols and have nothing you bow down to or worship other than him. Isaiah calls idol worship “stupidity and ignorance” (44:18) and God calls it lifeless crap upon which the lifeless corpses of the worshipers will be piled (Leviticus 26:30). That’s hardcore, God, but it makes a good point.
In America, or at least in Texas, pagan idol worship isn’t near as prevalent as in other countries and in other times. Oh, but we might be the worst idol worshipers of all because we have so, so many. In America, we’ll worship the clothes on the celebrity we worship on the movie we worship by the director we worship with the great soundtrack we worship by our favorite band we worship from the album we worship on our iPod we worship–
Eek. God said, “Remember how you acted last night because you didn’t get something you wanted when you wanted it? Remember how you made the object an idol? How you made yourself an idol, focusing on your pleasure in having this object more than anything else? Remember how Apple—as great as it may be—makes lifeless crap and you’re going to end up a lifeless corpse piled on top of it if you don’t watch out?”
Well played, God.
So, long as this blog is, there’s still one more thing I have to say. Because this is a lesson God was teaching me about eight months ago (even if sometimes I forget), but just this past weekend he showed me another aspect of it I’ve never caught before.
Jesus changed everything.
Is it a coincidence that so many of the physical miracles in the Gospel specifically address the description of the idol worshipers? The people who—before Christ—had mouths but physically couldn’t speak were able to speak after Christ healed them. The people who had eyes but couldn’t see and ears but couldn’t hear were able to see and hear after Christ healed them. The people who were lifeless before Christ were brought back to life through him.
The very descriptors used in the Old Testament raging against idol worshipers, word for word, were changed by the healing power of Christ. This is maybe one of the reasons Jesus told John the Baptist’s disciples, “tell him what you have heard and seen—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor” (Matthew 11:4). This is maybe one of the reasons Jesus told his disciples, “blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.” The disciples had been touched, changed, healed, set free by the power of Christ.
What this means is hope, forgiveness, redemption. Whether or not I want to admit it, I may idolize something new every day. I may turn to my iPhone or my new iPad more times a day than I turn to Christ. But every time I catch myself bowing down to anything other than God, I know I can be forgiven and be changed, little by little, for the better. My eyes and ears and mouth have been opened to see and hear and speak his Word.
It’s a constant battle, tearing down idols in our lives and replacing them with eyes on God instead, and there were many, many people the Old Testament mentions by name who had the same battle. But God’s promise for them still stands for us: “you will worship idols made from wood and stone—gods that neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell. But from there you will search again for the Lord your God. And if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him” (Deuteronomy 4:28-29).