In The World, Not Of It

My kids are trying to kill me. They play this “game” where they think of a random toy that hasn’t been played with in months, and then they expect me to drop everything and find it. RIGHT. NOW. Sometimes I think parenting is 47% breaking up fights and 53% finding crap.

And you know how most kids have a special toy or soft blanket that they sleep with? Well, our sweet Vivienne is not attached to anything. Not one single thing. (This is probably indicative of a personality disorder in there somewhere just waiting to manifest.)

(Just kidding, people.)

Brienne (who is twelve, by the way) still sleeps with her “white baby” and “yellow silky,” a doll and a silky blanket she’s had since she was an infant. She seriously doesn’t go far without those items. Sleepovers? Check. A week-long youth camp? Check. I think she will probably take those toys to college with her, and that is fine with me. Jonah’s favorite lovey is a blue silky blanket/puppy. That thing is nasty and has been through a lot, and if we ever lose it, I’m not sure what we will do. However, even though these special toys are filthy and disgusting, I think both Brienne’s and Jonah’s feelings of attachment are normal. This is why Vivienne’s non-attachment is a little disturbing.

For instance, the week before Christmas, I asked all three kids to find seven things to give away in order to make room for the new presents they would be receiving. The premise was that there are children all over the world who have nothing to play with and we need to be good stewards of what we own. If we aren’t playing with it, let’s give it away. And maybe even find something that is sort of special to us and give it away too. You know. Sacrifice and all. Brienne found seven items of clothing that were too small. Big sacrifice… To her credit, she is a book lover like her mama; therefore, she had a difficult time trying to part with all of her “book friends.” And Jonah. Bless him. He is apparently attached to EVERYTHING. A 2-inch eyeball bouncy ball? Nope. Can’t get rid if it because “I need it!” One of six gross sticky bugs from the dollar tree? Nope. He needs it. A plastic airplane with a broken wing? Nope. Well, you get the picture. It was quite the experience trying to find seven things for him to give up.

But Vivienne. Oh this precious little one. She grabbed anything and everything. A newish babydoll? Gone. The shopping cart that she had received the previous year (and which they play with every day)? Outta here! I seriously had to redirect her to other items just so we could keep some of the stuff she was trying to get rid of. She is a hoot. Not attached to anything, I tell you. (Unless you haven’t seen it for 14 months or you got rid of it in last year’s garage sale…)

Although I joke about her having a personality disorder, I actually think she is onto something here. This little girl, who can be such a handful yet so loving all in the same breath, is teaching me a lot about not being attached to our “stuff.” And isn’t this a picture of how God wants us to interact with our world?

Scripture tells us that we should “not love the world or the things in the world.” (1 John 2:15 HCSB) Now let me just say something up front. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love people. But what it does mean is that we shouldn’t become so attached to our things, our possessions, our stuff, that we put those items before God. Because those things can become our idols. God wants to be first in our lives. He wants us to be able to give up our belongings if they become a hindrance to our relationship with Him.

When we lived in Tennessee, I participated in a really great Bible study with some friends, No Other Gods by Kelly Minter. Working through her teaching brought to light just how many things I actually put before God. Exercise, body image, my phone, pride over my parenting skills (that one has since flown out the window…). Anything we value more than we value God is an idol.

That morning, as I watched Vivienne grab toys to give away, I began to wonder about certain items in my life that I was placing above the Lord. I’m not one of those people who is attached to a lot of possessions. I don’t have a favorite pair of shoes or an outfit that I can’t live without. I don’t really have a special item of furniture that I love and I’m not super attached to my car. (I know, I know. Don’t freak out that I’m not attached to my minivan!) But there are things in my life that I focus on more than I should. Things that take priority over my relationship with the Lord.

Take my phone, for example. It is almost always attached to my body in some way. I either carry it in my hand or in my back pocket all day, every day. I almost feel like I can’t put it down, and listen – I have a “legitimate” excuse with my husband being deployed. This means that if my children are at school and something happens, I am literally the only family member available for them to call. Additionally, the only way Peter can contact me is through Facebook messaging (and the occasional text), so I feel like I need to be available for him whenever possible. I mean, he is halfway across the world fighting a war. The least I could do is respond in a timely manner to his messages. But just because I have to carry my phone around constantly doesn’t mean I need to be on it constantly. I don’t need to browse Facebook or check my email five times an hour.

Worry is another thing that I sometimes focus on more than I should. I tend to worry about my children, our finances, my schedule. Anything that is in front of me can cause me to worry. I tend to dwell on worst-case scenarios about things that haven’t even happened yet. It’s just a smidge ridiculous. And my worrying becomes an idol to me. Instead of giving my concerns and burdens over to the Lord, I bear them all myself. Jonah 2:8 says that “those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.” I don’t want to cling to anything other  than God and I certainly don’t want to turn away from His love.

Do you, like me, struggle with placing objects, activities, or even people in your life above the Lord? If so, I have a challenge for you today:

First, take time to evaluate what is consuming most of your time. Make a list of things that you dwell on the most. It could be anything. Do you constantly focus on healthy eating? Exercise? Your kids? Your job? Any of these things, while good, can become an idol if we concentrate more on them than we do on the Lord.

Once you have made a list, find a way to prioritize your relationship with God. Look, my kids take up a high percentage of my day. I am constantly thinking about them and anticipating their needs. That’s understandable. But I must do everything through the lens of Christ. We need to put Him at the center of our lives, our homes, our family, and then our priorities will fall into place.

If you haven’t done so, I highly encourage you to check out Kelly Minter’s study No Other Gods. She is a great teacher who will help open your eyes to modern day idolatry.

 

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