Who are your secret idols?
Food, your iPhone, academics, money, celebrities, football…
There are so many things out there that pull us away from God and beg us to worship them instead. Idol worship is easy to cover up. It’s even easier to deny. During this Nativity fast, I find myself asking the hard questions about who and what my idols really are. And I will be honest; I don’t want to be honest about it.
I love to eat. I love chocolate. I love shopping for things I am interested in, and spending hours researching on the Internet.
Through all this, I find it very easy to forget God.
It’s pretty scary how easy it is.
But that’s the way it works, right?
The little angel on my shoulder tells me to pray with my kids at night, but I would rather sit on the couch and watch TV a little longer. Oops, devil wins.
It’s so easy to go to church, and not really be in church. But then comes the great entrance and the hymn to lay aside all earthly cares, and I am reminded that my worries, and my endless to do list, do not matter. I just need to let go and worship with all of me.
A few years ago, I felt like the typical Lenten Orthodox fasting guidelines were not hard enough for me. As it is, I don’t eat much meat and animal products. So it wasn’t like I was giving anything up.
So, I did something really difficult, especially for a woman.
I gave up chocolate.
Crazy, isn’t it?
But I didn’t like the hold it had on me, and I was eating too much of it every day. So I stopped eating it. It was really hard at first, and I slipped a few times. One time, my (then) eight-year-old daughter caught me just as I bit down on a dark chocolate bar I found hidden in the cupboard. “Mom!” she yelled. “You said you weren’t eating chocolate!”
I tried to tell her I was only fasting from chocolate, not dark chocolate.
“No, you can’t do that. It’s all chocolate,” she said.
She was right and I felt really stupid, but I needed that spiritual kick in the butt.
By the time the fast was over, I had lost interest in pigging out on chocolate. I still love it to this day, but thanks to that Lenten fast, chocolate does not have the same hold on me that it used to.
At my church in Seattle, our priest says we can find out who our idols are by looking at our daily schedule. What we spend our time on reveals what we worship.
The golden calves are calling out to us every minute.
When everyone’s eating Christmas cookies and walking around with pumpkin spice lattes, it doesn’t feel as warm and fuzzy to abstain during the Nativity fast. Everyone around us is celebrating, but we are the party poopers.
If our society was not struggling with emptiness and a need for more discipline and less indulgence, why are all these blogs on minimizing, getting rid of bad habits, and cutting portions so popular?
The world around us is so focused on consuming. How powerful that we can do without, and hopefully move our soul a little closer to God in the process.
I find support in going to church with other Orthodox Christians, participating in Oasis (our adult Sunday school program), and praying more.
But like the icon of St. John of the Ladder depicts, the closer I get to God, the more the devils pull me off track. All I can do is repent, get back on the ladder and start climbing again.