Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Pedestals

I was already mulling over thoughts about putting people on pedestals this morning when I found myself in Acts 14 in my daily Bible reading time. In this story, the Apostle Paul and fellow Christ-follower Barnabas heal a lame man in the city of Lystra. The people of the city are so amazed that they decide Paul and Barnabas are gods and attempt to make a sacrifice to them. The story goes on to tell about how Paul and Barnabas intervened with passionate insistence that the city-dwellers not sacrifice because they, like the people of Lystra, are merely men; they plead with the crowd to turn from idol-worship to serve the one true living God.

Aren’t we so often like the people of Lystra? It’s human nature I guess. We see a person or church or group who impresses us, we admire them, and we put them on a pedestal. We probably don’t say that we are going to worship them and I doubt that we attempt to make literal sacrifices, but it’s easy to hold them up as almost unable to do wrong. We see them as the person or group with all the answers.

The reasons we admire them can be many. Maybe they seem to have (or claim to have) perfect children, an idyllic lifestyle, great talent, beauty and charm, super-spirituality, or some other kind of success that we don’t see in others. To us, they seem very close to perfect. And so we put them on a pedestal no mortal should occupy. We hang on their every word. We can't get enough of their company (whether in real life or virtually). When questions arise we find ourselves saying, “_________ says…” We refuse to believe that they can make mistakes or unwise decisions or have unbalanced beliefs, although we might give lip service to such. We don’t think of it as worship, but it becomes worship. Rather than following Christ, the only person who should be pedestalized in our hearts and lives, we follow people.

The results are often tragic. We suffer guilt because we cannot live up to the “perfect” standard of those we pedestalize (although the standard is often not the fault of the others; it’s frequently our own perception). We sacrifice our individuality because we are trying to be like them. We fail to maintain our personal connection with God because we constantly look to the subject of our adoration for answers. We feel the need to keep up a false front around them so they don’t think ill of us in their perceived perfection, and in some ways that can make us hypocritical and fake. It’s possible to smother those we admire with too-frequent presence and adoration, or weary others with our incessant praise of them. And then when they fail, as all humans will, we are devastated, crushed. Sometimes it even causes us to question our faith. Had we maintained a realistic view of their humanity, their need for God’s grace right alongside our own, we would not be so surprised or disappointed when they turn out not to be perfect.

How do I know this? Because I’ve been guilty of it many times myself. My problem was that I looked to others for acceptance, validation, inspiration, support, love, and answers. I looked to people to fulfill what only God can fulfill. Consequently, I was always insecure and disappointed. I think I can safely say now that I’m secure enough that I’m not a follower of a particular friend, child-training “expert”, ministry, Bible teacher, or church. I identify with several people and groups, whom God provides to give amazing support, love, and blessing (most notably my husband and family and my church). My precious husband, my children, the family of Christians to whom I belong bring me unspeakable joy—but I realize that they need God’s grace just as I do. I find my ultimate fulfillment in Jesus. I’m a Christ-follower. That is enough.

2 comments:

Rebecca said...

Yes, sadly, what you say is so true. (Except the part about you overcoming it -- that's great!)

"but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.: 2 Corinthians 10:12

Very nice blog!

Charity Grace said...

Thank you! :)