During my undergrad, I became so obsessed with the idea of marrying my boyfriend (now husband) that one night, I found an image of a golden calf, put a text box with “MARRIAGE” over top of it using Microsoft Word, and typed underneath the image, “THIS IS NOT YOUR IDOL.” I printed it out and taped it to the wall near my desk, where I would see it quite often. It was a visible reminder that my constant thoughts about marriage were unhealthy, not only for my relationship with my boyfriend, but also for my relationship with God. He (God) was supposed to be the first love of my life, not Andrew.
I can think of several things besides marriage I could have made that image for throughout the years. For a while, it would have been grad school. After that, a full-time job. After that, a house with a decent kitchen. It was “a house with a decent kitchen” up until a few weeks ago, when we finally moved, and here I am wondering what it’s going to be next.
There’s always something that comes next.
There’s always something I want, something I’m looking forward to and hoping for and won’t be “happy” until I get. (At least, that’s how I feel until I get it.)
So what will it be? Will it be a promotion? Some sort of artistic inspiration? Another dog? What will I choose to place my hope in next? What eternally worthless thing will beat out the competition between all the eternally worthless things I value in life?
What will ultimately be my next disappointment?
Don’t get me wrong: most of the things I’ve looked forward to have been good and worthwhile. Marriage is fantastic. Grad school was…hard (but good!). The jobs I’ve had have been interesting, and I’ve grown a lot. Our house with a more than decent kitchen is a wonderful place for us to serve others (and make amazing food!).
But all of these things have been idols, and they have served to remind me—time and time again—that putting my hope and trust in anything other than a perfect Savior is futile.
We’re all guilty of it. In Exodus 32, the Hebrews are like, “Hey Aaron, we don’t know where that Moses guy went, so you should probably make us some god we can follow.” And Aaron’s like, “Yeah, sure, give me your jewelry and 20 minutes and I’ll whip something right up.” Like the Hebrews ordered a pizza or something. And POOF! A golden calf. And the crowd goes wild! When Moses confronts Aaron about this unfortunate event, he says (as quoted in the ESV), “So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf” (verse 24).
And out came this calf.
Like Aaron didn’t try to shape this thing into an animal. What a jokester! It’s like when I’m making brownies and the batter accidentally falls straight into my mouth. Oops!
But it’s no laughing matter. It’s no joke. We’re broken human beings who crave the next big thing, even if we already have the biggest, most important thing in the universe.
I’ve “joked” lately that I spend every day worrying about the next ten years. Perhaps, in this new and exciting season of life, I’ll take to heart that “each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34 NIV). Maybe I’ll take the metaphorical golden calves off my metaphorical walls and put my hope and trust in a God that’s real—a God that isn’t ultimately disappointing and unfulfilling. A God who will slay me, but raise me back to life.
I pray that I will look up instead of forward. Join me?