Our mentor this week is Christy, who has been set free of relational idolatry. Her “near sin” was clinging too tightly to friends, but she feels her deep idol was security (we have it under the category of comfort/security).
This is a picture of Christy with me at my cabin in Wisconsin. You can see Christy is a beautiful vibrant woman. She has been single all of her life. As she explains, often those who are single are particularly attached to their friends, for their friends are their family. (However — I think nearly all woman can relate to finding a kindred spirit and clinging too tightly, wanting exclusive time with her, and feeling threatened when she gets another very close friend. Or, we may cling too tightly to husbands or children.) I tell Christy’s story in the newest edition of The Friendships of Women. Here is a recap:
When God would give me a friend and there was that wonderful sense of connection, I would cling too closely to her. I would become anxious if she wasn’t free to spend time with me, or wasn’t connecting with me enough through e-mail, or, if she would get another close friend. When one friend got a boyfriend, I felt ignored, replaced, and actually had flu-like symptoms.
A couple of good friends got around me and told me this was an unhealthy pattern in my life and I needed help. I agreed to go for counseling. The day the counselor used the term “relational idolatry,” the light turned on for me. I knew I didn’t want to be an idolater. I felt such shame. But that was the beginning a journey toward freedom and healthy friendships.
A week ago Christy traveled with me to my retreat in Minnesota and I asked her if she would be willing to fill the mentor role this week — and she agreed! I told her that we were learning how important it is not just to stop running to the false god, but to start running to the true God. I asked her how she did that — she told me several things.
Christy was so convicted by the term “idolatry” that she was very desirous of repenting. She explained to her friend that she had to separate from her, and yet, she also felt anxious about it. (I think each of us can identify with that anxiousness when we are saying no to our idol.) One week her counselor had Christy put her hand on her heart, then she came behind her and placed her hand on top of Christy’s, pressing firmly. She said, “The next time you are anxious over this situation, press on your heart and know that the Lord is with you.” When we get anxious, we often think we are abandoned, but we never are. Jesus promises He would never leave us or forsake us, but that is a truth we must speak to our souls.
Christy also breathed the truth to her soul through study. Some of the most helpful books and studies she did were:
Jan Silvious’s “Please Don’t Say You Need Me” confirmed to Christy that she indeed, had a problem with relational idolatry.
Beth Moore’s study “Breaking Free” was helpful. (Beth had a diagram that showed how we put ourselves in a cell of what we think is true, when God has so much more for us.)
Henry Nouwen’s book, “The Inner Voice of Love,” helped her. Nouwen also had to separate himself from a friend, and needed to hear God’s voice of love. She remembers Nouwen saying something like: “If there is a person in your life who is able to make or break your day based on what they say or don’t say, then that person has too much control.”
Christy separated from her friend, studied, and became more dependent on the Lord. Today she has healthy friendships. So often when we are set free of our idol, when that idol was actually intended by God to be a good thing (such as friendship, food, or family) then that can return to being what God intended: good and beautiful and satisfying. When Christy and I were traveling together she got a call from the friend she had separated so long ago — she was going to be in town — and I could tell, as I listened to Christy, how healthy that friendship had become.
1. What are some of the key points you see in Christy’s story that could be helpful to us in our study of being set free from idolatry?
2. How do you personally relate to this?
3. What questions might you have for Christy?
4. It is the start of a new week in Lent. Renew your vision by setting a goal — something to stop doing, and something to start doing. What is your plan?
5. In Isaiah 2:22 — what reason are we given not to put our trust in man?
6. Romans 1 shows us how relational idolatry can actually be the first step on the slippery slope to homosexuality. This didn’t happen for Christy, but it does happen for many — especially because of the success of the gay agenda.
A. According to Romans 1:18, what is the first step in vulnerability towards idolatry?
B. Why is everyone responsible to God for worshiping Him according to Romans 1:19-20?
C. What two things did the unrighteous fail to do and what was the result, according to this key verse in Romans 1:21?
D. Because the above is so key — I’d like us to make a daily practice (hourly, actually) of giving thanks. Could you regularly record what you see throughout the day — from a baby’s smile to the crocus pushing through the snow? Could you also intentionally find ways to honor Him — from giving Him time, singing praise to Him, or reverencing Him in your heart? (I’ll keep looking for these in your postings!)
7. Trace the downward spiral that relational idolatry can lead to through these verses:
A. Romans 1:21
B. Romans 1:22-23
C. Romans 1:24-25
D. Romans 1:26-27
E. Romans 1:28-31
F. Romans 1:32
8. Please don’t limit relational idolatry to friendship. We can cling too tightly to husbands, children. What would be some red flags that this is happening?
9. Remembering the growth cycle of repentance and faith, how did Christy break free? How does her story help you?
10. Did you see any progress with your goal?
11. What is your take-a-way this week?