“I am a deeply romantic woman, always yearning for a picture-perfect home–fires on the hearth with feasts and laughter nearby, pleasant and gracious conversations, an ambiance of beauty and peace. I write about my ideals. I breathe my ideals in the secret moments of my life. I want a picture-perfect marriage where I am adored and appreciated. I want my children to be healthy, happy, and harmonious. I want strong friendships and a stable community with friends. I want an extended family to be close to us and to provide my children with love and support and lots of godly input. I want there to be money for all the bills, a home that isn’t always exploding with messes, and time to sit and read a good book and ponder life.
These longings are not wrong. Ideals and the desire for beauty are simply the echoes of God’s design in our hearts. He was the one who designed the world to be a masterpiece of wonder and life. The yearning for peace, health, and comfort is natural to our souls and comes from the depths of our hearts where we can still feel and imagine what God created life to be before the fall.” -Sally Clarkson
At a recent church service about worship, we were encouraged to name our idols, name the things we are most tempted worship, the things we seek at all costs and tend to put ahead of God in our priorities. We were supposed to write them on a piece of paper, just for ourselves. I took the squirming toddler for this one because I didn’t need to write mine down. I knew them. One I’ve talked about before- the desire for the approval of others. The other, which I’m realizing more and more takes the cake for the biggest idol of all in my life, is the desire for comfort. Sometimes I wonder what my life would look like if I had little regard for comfort, if I worked hard at everything I did, always gave my best, had no room for laziness or excuses. Yet I’ve never been able to commit to that lifestyle, and honestly I haven’t really wanted to. Because many of the people I see who live like that seem to be driven by perfectionism, something I know is also an idol with many pitfalls. I generally see myself as being on the opposite end of the spectrum from perfectionists (though perfectionism does slip in in a couple areas of my life). But maybe what we’re pursuing isn’t all that different, maybe it’s just taking different forms. Maybe we’re both idealists who just want everything to be as it should, only the perfectionists believe they need to make it happen, whereas the comfort-seekers don’t believe they can or that it’s worth the pain involved, so we accept what is and choose rest instead. Maybe the perfectionists sense in their hearts that things aren’t supposed to be as messy and chaotic as they are, and they’re forever trying to keep the chaos at bay. Maybe the comfort-seekers sense that things aren’t supposed to be as darn hard as they always seem to be, and we are forever trying to retreat into the peacefulness we believe is supposed to exist.
And maybe these potential idols of comfort and perfection aren’t so far off the mark. Maybe they’re not wrong. Maybe they are actually whispers of truth that were woven into our personalities when the God of the universe formed us himself. Maybe He gave us these longings. To remind us of how things were in the beginning. The peaceful, perfect beginning we never got to see. To remind us of how things are supposed to be. How things are supposed to be peaceful and good and right. To show us that something is missing, something is wrong, and that no matter how hard we work at it or how hard we flee from it, we’re unable to make it right on our own. Then to seek, seek the One who can make it right. The One who promises that all will one day be restored, and the One who restores us even now, as we come to him for healing, for protection, for strength, for rest. Maybe it’s all so that we would find him, the One our souls really long for, and the One who is longing for us.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.” _Psalm 23:1-3a
Yes, comfort and perfectionism can indeed be idols, if we let them sit enthroned as the thing that we value most and seek above all else. But even our idols can point the way to Him. And if we find Him, and find that He is our treasure, our longing for comfort and perfection can become not empty, ugly idols, but those beautiful whispers of truth that can propel us to partner with God in his work of restoring all things to the way they were meant to be. To heal the brokenhearted, to bind up their wounds, to set the captives free, give sight to the blind, invite the weary to enter His rest.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29
“Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey…
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.
Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope;
even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you…
Then the Lord will appear over them…
and the Lord Almighty will shield them.
The Lord their God will save his people on that day
as a shepherd saves his flock.
They will sparkle in his land
like jewels in a crown.” Zechariah 9:9-16
“The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” -Isaiah 58:11-12