Reading, surfing the net (Facebooking!) racing, keeping "house", etc. - there is nothing wrong with any of these activities, but when they become more important than my time and relationship with God, they are out of order - they are lesser loves. Not one of them is even remotely as worthy as God, but taking my time and attention and affection nonetheless. This morning I picked up my devotions and read this:
AgainHmm... What in my life is a lesser lover? What is keeping me from taking that time with my King? What is my "again"? Am I so consumed throughout the week with making my house what I feel it should be? Cleaning, or laundry, or dishes, or school work? Other peoples children? Recouping from the weekend for the first half of the week and preparing for the weekend for the second half? What am I allowing to take precedence over that quiet time with the Father? My time to worship, to listen, to feed, to pray, to draw near to His heart?
I've been reading through the book of judges - or rather, reading a chapter now and then as time and memory allow (you know how it goes) - and recently the opening line of chapter 13 got my attention: "Again the Israelites did evil in the Lord's sight..." It was the again that jumped out at me. Obviously there was a pattern developing there, but I'd been reading the book so slowly that I'd lost track of the thematic thread.
So, I skimmed back through Judges from the beginning and realized what I'd been missing was a phrase that's used over and over to introduce each new episode - "Again the Israelites did evil" (see Judges 3:7, 12; 4:1-2; 6:1; 10:6-8; etc.) - always paired with this curios little phrase: "So the Lord handed them over to [insert enemy here]." This is significant. The point isn't just that the Israelites kept messing up. The point is that every time they did, they lost their freedom.
How many agains are to be encountered in our lives? We turn away, and God steps in and helps us - He brings people into our lives who tell us the truth, for example - and for awhile we repent and attempt to get ourselves on track. But then the material attractions of the world glitter before our eyes, or we receive the attentions of popular people, and before long we are no long interested in spiritual things but start chasing after the things of this world. Again is a lifestyle, an ongoing pattern of resistance to the living God. And it's not without consequences: Sooner or later He turns us over to the things we crave. He hands us over to other masters who do not love us - to what we thought we wanted.
Are material possessions what you're chasing after? Fine, God says - I'll hand you over to those things until you're a modern-day slave trapped in bondage to credit card debt. Is it sexual pleasure that you crave? Okay, God says - I'll hand you over to every indulgence until you can no longer feel anything at all. Or what about romance? Sure, God says - I'll hand you over to another human being until you experience how similar love can be to hatred in the end. Is it popularity you want? Go for it, God says. I'll hand you over to your heroes until you can no longer speak or breath without needing their permission.
And so on and so forth. How many agains are they re to be in my life before I recognize my worthless idols for what they are?
I don't want any lesser loves in my life. I want "again" to cease being a lifestyle.