Idol worship. The phrase may bring to mind carved wooden figures or golden statues from the Bible. For many years, that was my mental picture. But I’ve learned that idols can, and often do, look much different.
The idol I bowed down to for years goes by the name “perfectionism.” And while my exaltation of perfectionism has taken many forms, one of its most debilitating effects showed its ugly self through a four-year battle with an eating disorder.
What is an idol? It’s anything more important to you than God. Tim Keller puts it well: idols are “anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.”
But God was far from my first love, my ultimate.
My worship began gradually during my senior year of high school. I knew that college was just months away, and I did not want to join the “freshman 15” club. So what began as a simple desire to eat right and exercise regularly grew into my “ultimate.”
It wasn’t long before I noticed my clothes fitting differently and a few compliments here and there.
I liked it. I craved it.
I craved it so much that my outlook and self-worth were dictated by the number on my scale and the size of my jeans. At my lowest point – weighing just 92 pounds, looking and feeling lifeless – I still looked in the mirror and saw imperfections. My days began and ended thinking, “How many calories were in that bowl of cereal?” and “How many miles do I need to run to burn off that burger?” And somewhere in between, I would read my Bible, pray, and serve on ministry teams. But God was far from my first love, my ultimate.
Jesus tells us we cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). I could not claim Him as my Lord while also kneeling before an obsession to achieve perfection – and an extremely unhealthy view, at that. Instead, God’s Word tells us that our true love will be revealed in what stirs our affections. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
In God’s graciousness and kind patience, He opened my eyes to these truths. It took several years and involved many bruises along the way, BUT GOD … rich in mercy, redeemed this ugly struggle. If you can relate, may I leave you with some takeaways to ponder?
I could not claim Him as my Lord
while also kneeling before an obsession to achieve perfection
Reveal your struggle
Open up to someone you trust. There is power in bringing our struggles into the light.
Re-evaluate your true identity
Learning and growing in who God is and who you are in Christ is paramount! And that starts with being in relationship with the Lord … not just going through the motions of attending church or opening the Bible now and then. Spend quality time with Him, meditate on His Word, talk with Him. “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).
Replace idols with truth
We cannot just tear down idols; we must replace them with truth. “Whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute … dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
We will never achieve perfection, but we serve a perfect God, who loves us perfectly.
Perfectionism isn’t the only idol to be weary of. They come in many forms. Let’s be a people who do some deep soul-searching, root out our idols, replace them with truth, and run to our first love.
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