Tag Archives: idolatry

Repeat Regularly: “There Is One God; I Am Not Him”

“Oh, I guess I’m just a perfectionist,” I opined, in an “Aw, shucks!” sort of feigned shame tone, as I tried to hide the weird contortions required to pat oneself on the back.

But twisted pride is one of perfectionism’s pernicious symptoms. Perfectionists like to think they are a cut above ordinary folks. We have, we think, higher standards, work with more diligence, and see more clearly than pretty much everyone else.

Granted, low standards, lazy workers, and the lousy outcomes produced by such are not hard to find. But those ills are never cured by perfectionists; if anything, they are made worse. Even folks who do an average to slightly above average job just want to give up under the incessant pressure of a perfectionist’s thumb; folks on the lower end of the scale won’t even try.

Perfectionism’s thinly-veiled arrogance, along with out-of-balance priorities, and deep (and sick) need to be in control, spells death to any sort of genuine contentment and pushes family, friends, and co-workers, away. Perfectionism sucks the air out of any room and throttles healthy relationships. And perfectionists are sadly unable to see perfectionism’s malignant imperfection.

Yes, its pride is stinky. But the real rot at its heart is the poison of fear, the soul-throttling terror of never being able to measure up, which leads to frantic effort—never ceasing, never resting, and, of course, never succeeding—to be completely in control.

In the final analysis, perfectionism is idolatry, and idolatry always fails. Since we are incapable of being in absolute control of our own lives—and were never meant to be—we fail at being our own gods. And since others were never meant to acknowledge us as their gods, we fail at forcing those around us to “have no other gods before us.” Bowing down to the true God is freeing; bowing down to a perfectionist is enslaving and utterly exhausting. Eventually, the slaves will revolt. The spouse has had it. The kids’ act out or get sick. The co-workers quit.

Based on miserable insecurity and fear, not on “high standards” as the perfectionist likes to suppose, perfectionism never works. “Good enough” will never be “good enough” under a perfectionist’s reign. No victimless malady, it will render both the sufferer and those who suffer the sufferer miserable.

And forget the myth that perfectionism is productive. Study after study has shown the truth one song-writer put into words: The way to write a really good song is to write a good many bad ones. Living life in a fear-based, frantic attempt to produce perfection really means not producing much at all (and certainly not enjoying the process).

Anne Lamott has written, “I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

For Christians, the truth is even more serious. Perfectionism is a denial of the gospel, a slap in the face of the Savior, as perfectionists live and act as if they need no saving at all, certainly not as much as ordinary folks. But to accept Christ’s sacrifice requires admitting our utter inability to save ourselves. It’s only when we confess our powerlessness, weakness, and imperfection that he enables us to throw off the fear, futility, and idolatry of perfectionism, to embrace his deep peace and joy and live truly gracious lives in the sure knowledge that we are saved by sheer mercy and grace.

Maybe I should delete all of the above and just write (and repeat each hour) an eight-word anti-perfectionism creed: There is one God. I am not Him.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 

 


“Shaky? Nauseous? Pale? Oh, You Turned Off Your Cell Phone!”

 

Face it. More than a few of us are addicts. For all addicts, the first step toward recovery is summed up in one word: honesty. That means admitting we have a problem.

And we do. Nomophobia. That’s the official name for cell phone addiction. The term actually means “no mobile phone fear.” Of course, a phobia is an irrational or excessive fear. And “no mobile phone” means, in this context, that the digital device might be (Careful! I warn you, these are terrifying prospects!) lost, misplaced, turned off, battery dying or depleted, left at the house or office or in the car, etc.

The designers of these devices and their “apps” have long been aware of their addictive potential. Of course, the design folks work their techno-magic to the best advantage for their company or advertisers to keep us checking, glued to, enslaved by, the devices we own that too easily own us.

The actual research regarding what happens in our brains, and, more sobering, the brains of our kids, when we/they feel a deep need to be constantly on or checking our phones or apps is as interesting as it is troubling.

In a Business Insider article by Madeleine Stowe (http://www.businessinsider.com/what-is-nomophobia-2014-7), Dr. David Greenfield, a leading expert in this arena, says that when we get a notification from our phones, an elevation in dopamine occurs in our brains. Dopamine is “a neurotransmitter” that “regulates the brain’s reward system” and is a key component in all addictions. Who knows? That notification might be something gratifying or important, and so, for our brains, our cell phones become the miniature slot machines we are compulsively checking as our brain wants a payout, a fix, a reward.

“Google” this, if you dare: “signs you are addicted to your phone.” And get ready to be uncomfortable. You’ll find a bunch of articles on “10 Signs” or “25 Signs” and most of us don’t need nearly that many to fail (or be nailed by) the test miserably. If you’re a little nauseated or ticked off by the prospect of looking at such an article, I rest my case. Maybe “1 Sign” will suffice.

We might also just try some simple experiments.

*Keep a log of how many times a day we check our phones.

*Notice how often we are phubbing others (“phubbing” is “phone snubbing” and there’s no courteous way to do it) by focusing on our phones, disregarding, and thus demeaning the people around us.

*Eat a meal with our phone off, put away, or throttled all the way down. I mean, really, is it vital for most of us non-emergency personnel to have our phones at the table during a meal—or is it just one more proof of addiction? Care about teaching your kids manners, parents? Teach them about this—and show them. Please!

I actually heard of a church recently where social media access is electronically blocked on their campus. Good!

Speaking of social media, here’s a way to get a daily dopamine fix by playing a game of chance. How about for a week or two or 52, flipping a coin each morning? Tails? No Facebook or other social media today. Faces? I mean, heads? Scroll your heart out, all a-twitter that day, as much as you want! How much courage/discipline would that test take from addicts like us? Probably more than we have. Still it’d be well worth a try.

Lots of blessings become curses—even idols—if we don’t use them wisely, throttle them back, give them away, quit bowing before them, or, in this case, just regularly turn them off.

One God is enough.

Note: I do not recommend tossing this column at your spouse or others—or whimsically sending it to their phone. 1) Addicts are easily angered, even dangerous. 2) Self-righteousness is as bad as addiction.

 

        You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


God-making Is Strange But Not Unusual Business

“Make me a god!” It seems like such a strange request—until we realize how often we probably make this same request ourselves.

Israel’s children were waiting in the desert at the foot of Mount Sinai. Moses had been summoned up the mountain by God Himself. Jehovah was about to give to Moses to give to His people the tablets of the Law.

But Moses had been gone a good while. Forty days and nights. And Israel’s children were as restless and impatient as a little child waiting on his mama at Cloth World. (And I suppose that is an archaic allusion on almost every level, but . . .) What had happened to Moses? What was taking him so long? Was he even still alive or had that awesome display of power on the mountain unmade him?

At first, perhaps, they were just impatient. But impatience turned into anger, and anger flowered into folly as they accosted Aaron, “Moses is gone. We don’t know what happened to him, but he’s gone. Make us a god!”

Why did they need a god?

Was it because the God who rained plague after plague on their humiliated Egyptian task-masters was somehow away like Moses, off on a long journey?

Was it because the God who had parted the Red Sea and then swallowed Pharaoh’s entire army in swirling death was too weak to somehow help Israel’s children along on the rest of their journey?

Was it because the God who had created this world and who gave them their very lives was not God enough?

Was it because the God who would soon be feeding them with manna and sharing with them His very Presence was less than the answer to their need?

“Make us a god!”

A god you can make. A supposed creator created by his own creatures. Hmm.

What comes first—the chicken or the egg?

What comes first—the creator or the creatures?

I’ve always wondered how mechanistic and naturalistic evolutionists get around the big question: “Who lit the fuse for the Big Bang?” So, they say, life on earth originated from some primordial soup? Well, who made the soup? Where did the stuff of creation come from? It seems to me, you must have a creator, a cook, a pre-existent chef of amazing power, back there somewhere. I guess my faith is not blind enough to believe otherwise.

And now the request comes: Make us a god! And it makes me wonder about the kind of god who can be made by creatures who fashion him in their own liking, set him up on a stand, and then bow down to him, presumably to thank him for life and all good things.

I see a problem here. And it would seem even sillier if we didn’t do the same thing ourselves all the time.

“Make us a god!”

The god that Aaron made for them was gold. Fitting, I suppose. Lots of ours are, too. We bow before Money and what it can buy. We bow before Pleasure. We bow before Success and Prestige.

But the God who redeemed us on a cross is God enough. Let’s bow before Him.

 

 

Copyright 2012 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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