No Other Gods

What Do You Think? Wednesday

Joshua thought he knew them all, the 10 Commandments that we’ve spent the last few weeks on. As I told you Monday, he snarled a bit and glanced for something else but realized these rules can easily escape. I did, too, only my realization wasn’t of a memory loss but something I had yet to even consider.

Thou shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3).

I had this first commandment locked in mind when my eyes opened to all the idols that consumed my life: African décor; my hair; my Sunday dress; and my need to defend myself were at the top of the list. I wrestled with these gods for years, finally pinning them down and not bowing to them again. But my desire to defend myself is rising again as I wrestle with the loss in the eyes of some loved ones of my good reputation, my new idol that I just recognized as such.

My loved ones have always felt free to challenge me, the way I handled a friendship, responded to my boss or even wore my hair. For the most part these challenges were occasional, but now their challenges are a constant strum and the music seems so loud! I have loved ones who question the effectiveness of the boys’ home education though they have seen the benefits; a friend who questions my social justice record; and some who say I’m insensitive, harsh even. None of the challenges are new. Now they just seem to be a concentrated steady beat.

I thought because some of the challenges—like my decision to home educate or my less visible focus on social justice—were old that my people would have settled my decisions in their minds. Not so. Even though my loved ones are a minority and their challenges oppose the many notes and face to face comments I get, I focus on the noisy minority. I have contemplated returning to an idol to try to get them to see the merit in my decisions, and this is troublesome. My focus, however, is understandable.

We all expect that our loved ones who we believed knew our good character would not question our character (e.g., positioning my children for failure or disregarding those in need). It hurts that the person our loved ones knew to make wise decisions is no longer treated as wise when our decisions go contrary to what they believe. To make the pain go away, to make our relationships right again, we consider what we might not otherwise consider, in my case defending myself. When I wrote a post about how a change in you may change others’ view of you, at that time I didn’t know that the pain associated with their changed view of me is really coming from the death of my reputation. I had a good name among them, but now my character is challenged as I seek to do what I know God has called me to do.

Of course in my attempt to obey Christ I mess up. I say some things the wrong way, at the wrong time, in the wrong tone, but never did I suspect my decisions would negatively color my character. I didn’t suspect that because I had a stellar reputation, one I held in high esteem when I should have viewed it as nothing.

The Apostle Paul commands believers not to put “confidence in the flesh,” citing that his human pedigree could cause him to be the most boastful of all (Philippians 3:4-6). Instead he says,

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith– that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:8-11).

That’s the confidence I need; that’s the confidence we all need as we attempt to surrender all, even a reputation.

What are some of your idols that you have recently uncovered? How have they affected the way you worship God? Please, tell me what you think.

Remember God’s Word

My big boy sighs, snarls really, at the thought of studying the 10 Commandments. He’s 10 and they’re old, Bible material for the uninitiated. When his younger brothers repeat the first commandment–Thou shall have no other gods before me–Joshua glances around, hoping to find something relevant, something challenging, for him. Then I say to him: “Name all the commandments and give them to me in order.” He misses two commandments and gives all but one out of order. He recognizes he still needs this lesson, that the initiated sometimes seem like the uninitiated because we soon forget.

Sunday my pastor challenged us about forgetting that we are the initiated and acting like the uninitiated. To rid ourselves of spiritual apathy he had us glean from Revelation 3:3 where Jesus commands believers: “Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief” (Revelation 3:3–NLT).

So when we find ourselves spiritually satisfied but our memories fail and actions betray us, let us go back to what we heard and believed: God’s word, the gospel of salvation that saved us from a literal hell; let us hold to it firmly, the gospel that is sufficient for keeping us from a life of hell; repent of our strong black woman and other know-it-all ways; and return to God, the author and finisher of our faith. We don’t know it all but know the one that knows all.

Let us then remember that we never

    1. outgrow God’s word
    2. outsmart God’s word

With these we will always thirst for and seek God’s word. In it we will always find God, who is really all we need.

My One Thousand Gifts List

Mama hugging and thanking me, with tears in her eyes, for not judging her
Mama being mama-proud of my contribution to Your First Year of Motherhood and my Cooking with Rhonda video
Nate reaching to hug Josh when his eyes were stinging and Justus running to join the hug
Justus giving high fives back and forth between Flynn and me
Justus diving under the high chair to get away with Nate’s spoon
God’s grace for taking care of the children mostly all day every day this week
Awakened at 4:30 am to finish writing a message
Writing a blog post that I liked even though I had no idea what it was going to be when I sat at the computer
Hearing God direct me to make chili pizza for the boys and them loving it
Deleting my website and from my reaction seeing the areas of growth I still have (patience, anger)