After embarking on this “Body Love for Lent” journey (aka Giving Up Diet Culture For Lent), God has been showing me false idols again and again. In this season of Lenten repentance, I’m feeling called to confess the sin of a false idol in my own life and turn away from it.
My relatively limited Bible study left me with the impression that false idols are only about worshiping multiple gods and making sacrifices to statues… you know, pagan stuff. I hate to admit it, but I ignored it all. I thought false idols didn’t apply to modern day, let alone my own life. I was wrong.
It doesn’t have to be a golden calf to be an idol.
With eyes of faith, I’ve come to see idols as more like priorities. What is most important to you? Where do you spend your time and energy? What do you value? What are you seeking in life?
If it’s not God first, you might have an idol. I did.
The latest First 5 Bible Studies I’ve done are the studies of 1 & 2 Kings and (currently) Prone to Wonder, a study of the Minor Prophets. Many of the First 5 teachings from these studies have highlighted the sin of worshiping false idols and have really helped me to see how false idols tie in with Diet Culture:
Instead of worshipping God with their whole heart, the Israelites turned to their pagan altars. (Hosea 10:1) Instead of trusting in the Lord, they put their faith in their rebellious and evil kings. (Hosea 10:3-4, 7)
Like the Isrealites, I am prone to sin and disobedience. Like the Isrealites, I am prone to divide my affection and attention.
In 2 Kings, the kings were called to tear down the high places and destroy idols of false gods, but they failed to do it.
This made me look at my own life and ask why is it so hard to obey God’s instructions, especially when they are clear? What keeps me stuck in disobedience and sin? This issue has been coming up again and again for me and I’ve been reflecting on it. Two things come to mind:
- It can be hard to obey if you are not certain you’ve received God’s instructions or you not sure you really heard God right. This ties in to the Discerning the Voice of God online Bible study I’m doing lead by Priscilla Shirer.
- It can be hard to obey God if you are worshipping something else. This ties in with my realization that Diet Culture as a false idol in my life.
In the time of 2 Kings, the people were worshiping something else. First 5 laid it out this way:
During this time, the people worshipped both God and Baal in tandem. (2 Kings 15:35) Had kings Azariah and Jotham torn down the high places, their actions would’ve been considered countercultural and politically incorrect. Fear may have hindered these kings from destroying Judah’s idols and walking in full obedience to God.
Sadly, high places aren’t outdated problems of the past. Within our cultures, worldviews and hearts, there are high places that compete with our affections for God. They’re ideas, mindsets, relationships, and things we try to reconcile with our faith, so we don’t offend others or experience rejection. Although it’s painful, destroying our personal high places ensures that Christ will remain elevated as Lord over every area of our lives.
When we live out our faith unapologetically, we tear down idols and point others to relationship with God. Tearing down the high place of “acceptance” released me from the fear of rejection so I could share my testimony with family and coworkers. Perhaps you need to tear down “popular opinion” so you can fearlessly stand for God’s truth. Or maybe you want to topple “materialism” so you can impact the kingdom through generous giving.
In my life, the high place that needs tearing down is my attachment to my body. My false idol is a Diet Culture.
I don’t think I’m alone in this, at least not among my sisters of the world. It’s common practice in today’s society (aka Diet Culture) for women to make their bodies false idols, often inadvertently, through obsessive thoughts about appearance, dieting, working out, and trying to look perfect. I, for one, have been doing it for decades. In this media-saturated world, it’s the air we breathe.
Diet Culture places the world’s unrealistic standard of beauty on a high altar for all to see, and shames anyone who does not conform to it. Out of fear, shame and ignorance, I have worshiped at this altar since puberty.
Truly waking up to this sin in my life and confessing it has been a turning point in my walk with the Lord. I meditated on it for a solid week to prepare for my first Confession, what I’ve come to learn is now called The Sacrament of Reconciliation, and wrote out what I’m sure is the longest confession ever stumbled through in my parrish (a snippet is below). I wept when I made laid it all out for the Priest:
I was consumed by the idea that I was not good enough as I am and that I need to change to become good enough. I put all of my heart, mind and soul into the world’s standard of beauty and success and hustled for worthiness as if God did not even exist.
I bought completely into diet culture, mistreated my body, God’s temple, with eating disorders and chronic dieting. I became so obsessed with physical appearance that health became a false idol in my life. I was so selfish. I didn’t know how to love myself, love others or love God.
Lent is the perfect time for us to pause, take a good look at our lives and really check in with God. We can use the Lenten season as an opportunity to examine our hearts and ask God to examine our hearts, too, so he can shine a light to show us dark corners where sin or idolatry might be lurking. Anything we put before God can be a false idol.
- When weight loss becomes the main focus and purpose in life…
- When weight loss occupies all of your thoughts…
- When weight loss drains all of your energy…
- When weight loss takes over your priorities…
- When dieting makes you believe you aren’t worthy of love just as you are…
…that’s when the pursuit of weight loss and dieting becomes a false idol. It was for me.
God’s warning to tear down the altars is my call to action.
This Lenten season I am tearing down my high place of my attachment to my body and I am toppling the false idol of Diet Culture in my life.
I am praying for an undivided, obedient and devoted heart that remains true to God first, God alone and worships nothing else. I am praying that tearing down my high place will be a visible demonstration of my faith that draws me nearer to God and points others towards Him.
I invite you to consider, as I did: What are you worshiping? Where do your priorities lie? Do you have high places that need to be torn down?
Join me in evaluating my priorities, looking at my To Do List and asking God to reveal where I am wandering outside of His plan so I can return to Him.
God, please forgive me for each time my affection and attention have been divided. I want to give You my undivided affections and attention, so please reveal the high places that need to be torn down in my life. Please reveal anything I have been turning to instead of You. Teach me to rely on Your strength and power in the areas where I struggle. Please reveal anything that I have been putting before You. Give me a heart that wants you more than anything in the world. Please give me the strength to fully obey you when it’s not easy. Please give me the courage to fully obey you in a hostile culture that leads me to astray. Thank you for faithfully loving me in the midst of my wandering. Thank you for beckoning me to return to You, calling me to repentance this Lenten season and offering me the chance to begin again. I ask for Your loyal and perfect love to make me new. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.