If you have ever listened to Tim Keller sermons, one of his recurring themes is the human problem of idolatry. He talks frequently of our tendency to give the love and worship that God deserves to the wrong things. In his message on anger, he explains that one of the reasons we have to get angry at times is for the sake of that which we love. The problem is that sometimes, we love some things too much. For me, there are definitely things that I love way too much. I have discovered that my current struggle with anger is rooted in this misdirected love. Let me explain.
One thing I really love is being in control of how others perceive me. I want people to see me as a responsible, intelligent, capable and thoughtful person. Once upon a time, very few people would have used those words to describe me. I imagine that years of working hard and pushing through have changed things. There is nothing wrong with managing perceptions, in fact, it is an essential part of growing up. However, one can love their desired perception too much. It can become an idol and you can begin to invest too much time and energy into it. What is worse, if the people closest to you do not respect your misdirected love for the perception idol, they become the enemy and the object of your anger. If not people, then situations and outcomes become the enemy. Eventually, my love for my perception leads me to be angry at life itself.
Two weeks ago, I was backing out of my driveway and was not paying enough attention to how close I was to the brick wall. The dramatic sound told me that my front left bumper hit the wall. I got out of the car and screamed (and dogs whimpered). About an hour later, I was in the car with one of my best friends, Bruce. Without notice, I let out roar of anger and my steering wheel took the brunt of it. Bruce later told me that he had never seen me so angry.
And why was I so angry? At the accident that truly was an accident? At the amount of money it will cost to fix the bumper? No…
I was angry because I could no longer manage the perception of people seeing me drive a nice car. I was angry because I feared what the people who helped me get the car will think of my driving skills. I was angry because for a few weeks, I would be looking for ways to avoid people’s attention when I drove into familiar places. I was angry because I could not manage this perception. It made me hate my car and hate my life (yes I just said that). It was a ridiculous and deplorable response to life. I am even ashamed to admit it. If only the idol of controlling perceptions was my only misdirected love.
Again, I am on the journey and God is still making all things new in me. The good news is that the antidote for idolatry is worship. It is in worship that we actively acknowledge that we have loved something or someone more than God. And it is in worship that we actively remove (and even destroy) our idols and reaffirm that “there is no other God but You” and “You, Jesus, alone are worthy of my praise and deepest affection”. Like prayer, it is in worship that anger and idolatry are dealt with.
Later today, you will see me driving down I-95, jamming out to worship music, actively transferring my love and affection from how people perceive me to the One who loves me.