“Quick!” the girl grabbed my hand and pulled me beyond the curtain, “The ceremony is beginning!”
I sensed the curtain swoosh closed behind me, leaving only darkness and the smell of incense. A bell sounded close by, together with the distinctive sizzle of a match. As my eyes adjusted to the candlelight, I saw faces—women—encircled on the ground around a low platform. A hum arose amidst them, and then, a chant: “Your love is all I long for; your face is all I seek, for you will satisfy my heart and hold me when I’m weak.”
Something inside me turned cold, yet—what could be wrong? I looked closer at the women. Clearly, they had spent considerable time and effort preparing their looks for the occasion. As I pondered this, the rustle of paper disrupted my reverie and I realized that each woman was unrolling a poster before the platform. I leaned toward the nearest poster, only to see the image of a man gazing back at me. A rock star maybe? What kind of ceremony was this!?
“And now,” a voice broke my thoughts, “we sacrifice!”
The others looked at me.
I hadn’t meant to yell.
“That’s what we do.” Someone explained, gesturing to the others laying costly items on the platform amongst the posters, “We sacrifice our time, money, mental energy, peace of mind, and pieces of our hearts on this altar, to the guys we worship. Do you not also practice Guydolatry?”
“Good grief, no!” I denied. “Don’t you know what scripture says about idolaters?”
“But look,” she said, pointing. My gaze followed her manicured fingernail to the altar, and what I beheld in the candlelight turned my heart heavy as stone, and twice as cold:
I was on that altar.
My time. My energy. My resources—or more accurately, God’s resources, entrusted to me.
Feeling ill, I turned and fled past the curtain and back into the daylight.
How could this be? I’ve been a content single; I don’t even “date”! Certainly, I haven’t burned incense to any posters. But what if idolatry could be more subtle than that?
Remembering the Bible in my bag, I opened its pages to see what it said about how to recognize an idol:
- Something you covet.
Colossians 3:5 says “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry (ESV).” Meanwhile, Ephesians 5:5 (ESV) warns “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”
If covetousness is idolatry, how do we know what signals covetousness? According to other scriptures, there are at least three red flags: envy, lust and discontentment. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with desiring to marry a Godly husband. But when we recognize envy, lust or discontentment surfacing in our thoughts concerning relationships, it’s a good time to nip guydolatry in the bud.
- Something you sacrifice to.
Serving God through sacrificially loving and serving others, including the guys in our lives, is one thing. That’s a sacrifice to God, as our whole lives should be. But when we allow something or someone to cut in on our relationships with God, for instance through opening ourselves to inordinate distraction or through making choices which go against God’s will for us, we sacrifice to another what belongs to God, and miss His best for us.
- Something you treat like God.
Idols are anything to which we attribute honor that belongs to God, like the Israelites did when they praised the golden calf as their deliverer from the Egyptians. Similarly, idols are anything that we expect will do for us what only God can do. Whom do we expect to save us, to rescue us from hardships including loneliness, to satisfy our hearts and to make everything okay? Looking to guys for these things is certain to fail, because humans are just that—human. Sure, God can provide a husband as an earthly companion, protector and provider, but nothing could change the fact that the only enduring, satisfying, failproof Companion, Protector and Provider is He, Himself.
I looked up from the Bible, suddenly aware of its wonderful news for the other ladies behind the curtain:
Someone worth worshiping already loves us like crazy.
And He knows us so well. He created us for relationship—with others, and most amazingly, with Himself. So, our hearts are safe with Him. Having recognized an idol (or guydol), turning back to God in a position of surrender is the first step to guydol-free living. When we surrender ourselves to God, we belong entirely to Him—attractions, dreams, desires and all. We can give these attractions, dreams and other thoughts back to Him again and again, turning our minds to Him.
This is part of taking every thought captive and giving it to Christ, which is another key to guydol-free living. This isn’t always easy, because idols are appealing. They’re physical, tangible and immediately present. We can see them, touch them, talk to them face to face. But they can’t save us, or love us back the way need. Worshiping them only leaves us disappointed and minus the sacrifices we offered them.
Christ, however, offers the real version of what we were seeking all along. He loves us more than any guy could, is 100% unblinkingly faithful, and has vowed to be with us forever—which is something no human could promise. That means He wants to spend the rest of His life with us! So much, in fact, that He went to the cross so that He could. Now He’s Someone to sing about!
Patricia Engler is a young writer with a three-fold passion for Christian apologetics, outdoor adventure, and Dutch licorice. Mostly, she desires to walk with God and bring others along. When not typing undergraduate papers, dreaming about global missions, or trying to build homemade outdoor gear out of dental floss, she may often be found wandering along Canada’s west coast, looking contemplative. And eating licorice.