Gold Star Idolatry

Some people have no fear of unknown situations. They can walk into a new experience, whether it’s a job, a volunteer situation, or a mission trip and not be nervous. Some may actually be excited!

I am definitely not one of those people. I like to know what’s expected of me. I want to be prepared. A couple weeks ago I found myself in one of those unknown situations. I had no idea what was expected of me and that made me nervous because I wanted to do well. I wanted to serve the Lord in a meaningful way.

In response to these nerves, I found myself mentally preparing for whatever scenarios might come up. Do you ever do this? Do you make up scenarios and then play them out to see how you’ll respond? I was doing that, but my thoughts bothered me. Why did my mind do these sorts of exercises? I shelved that question and prayed for the Spirit to equip me and use me in whatever way he wanted.

Shortly after arriving, I was prepped on what was going to happen that day but there were still some unknowns. I was a little nervous but also excited to help. Things went very smoothly and pretty quietly and by the end of my time I had learned a lot and was able to contribute a small part to the ministry.

Later on I started thinking about those mental scenarios I had created prior to my experience. Did they help me? Not really because they were nothing like what actually happened that day. But, as I thought some more, I realized that in my scenarios I always succeeded. I got a ‘gold star’, so to speak. I also realized how often I did these sorts of exercises. Every time my expectation of what might happen never lined up to what actually happened, but again, in my ‘what if?’ scenarios, I always succeeded. So why am I engaging in these pointless exercises? What am I gaining from it?

The Lord has shown me (and is continuing to show me) that this desire to do well is laced with all sorts of hidden sins: pride, idolatry, selfish ambition, the fear of man. It’s like grasping for a spiritual gold star. Doing well then results in being able to put that gold star on my chart where I can step back and admire it. What’s at the top of the chart? My name. My reputation. In almost every situation, there’s a hidden motivation to do well in service of myself and what people think of me. That’s idolatry. I am serving and worshiping my own reputation. What was one of my biggest fears the day I volunteered? I feared that I wouldn’t be prepared and then I would fail. And that failure before others would damage my reputation. Ouch!

These sins so easily entangle me and they’re all so hidden. But they lie at the heart of identity. I try to derive my worth from what I do and if I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, I can’t prepare and the outcome I want – the gold star – is in jeopardy.

How do I fight back? How can I disentangle myself and lay aside these sins? That’s for the next post.

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