The Idol of Self

I was reminded today of an acutely transformative time in my life. Isn’t it funny how something can trigger a specific memory that can instantly take you back to a very specific place and time?

I stumbled upon today’s reading from Ezekiel 36.

“I will sprinkle clean water upon you
to cleanse you from all your impurities,
and from all your idols I will cleanse you.”

It then goes on…

“I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you…”

You see, this exact passage was one that I clung to when I was at inpatient treatment, recovering from anorexia. I had this beautiful leather bible, and sprinkled throughout, there were these magnificent photo inserts that highlighted particular verses, and this was one of them.

It had this beautiful woman with the biggest, most radiant smile I’ve ever seen, and she was in a sun shower. The rain was pouring down, and yet the sun was shining brilliantly. I saw that image — in my 78 pound state, without hope, feeling scared and powerless — and just the thought of being cleansed of all the horrible things I had done, and that I would be given a new heart and spirit…it filled me with so much comfort and peace. And HOPE!

I looked at that image of the woman every day, and in those words…new heart, new spirit, be cleansed…I found the strength to fight the literal battle of my life, for my life.

So today, having that passage pop up on my radar, it took me back to that place of transformation, where Jesus led me through a process of restoration – body, mind, and most importantly…spirit.

But it was interesting, today, reading that and revisiting that from a where I am now — from a place of wholeness, with that new heart and new spirit I was promised back then.

I read it with new eyes. And it really convicted me, and so I wanted to share it with you.

Yes, I was still moved by the hopeful promise of a new heart and a new spirit…because hello — that’s amazing. God is in the business of restoration. And He promises that to you and me, every morning, new.

But today, I was drawn to the line just before the “heavy-hitter.”

…from all your idols I will cleanse you.”

Idols.

This really convicted me. Because now, in 2020, with 20/20 hindsight…I am no longer focusing on the hope I desperately needed from the following sentence, but rather, the amazing mercy, grace and forgiveness that God was actually doing at that time….

He was cleansing me from my idol…

He was cleansing me from myself.

I think if I’m being brutally honest with myself, I was making myself an idol in my heart. I was making my body, my appearance, my thinness, my weight…those had become what I was worshipping. And it disgusts me to admit that, but I think sometimes it’s important to really examine the dirty, nitty gritty truth, thereby illuminating the immense saving power of God, and the powerful things He’s actually done.

With this in mind, I was looking around today, and just realizing that there are so many idols in our everyday lives — in my everyday life — that I don’t even realize. And I think the faster we can identify them, the faster Jesus can cleanse us from them, and give us that new heart and new spirit.

And sure, I could pause here and go into the obvious idols of money, success, material things, sex, alcohol, etc.

But I really want to focus on the idol of self. Because you don’t need to be suffering from an eating disorder to be worshipping at the altar of “self.”

The world today — which I am absolutely including myself in — we glorify individuality…sometimes to an extreme and unhealthy extent. We strive to be different, be admired or esteemed, we care deeply about what others think of us – or our social media feeds, – we strive to be seen as “woke,” and our own category of unique…and woe to the person who sees differently.

We raise up our own thoughts and thinking, and to anyone who contradicts, we are quick to strike back or lash out, all in the name of self-celebration.

These are all broken manifestations of how deeply we have come to idolize self.

We have taken a beautiful concept of self-love and recognizing our self-worth in Christ, and twisted it to be an idolization of self, individuality, and identification.

And so I wanted to just touch on that today.

It took God literally screeching my anorexia freight-train to a halt, and absolutely derailing my life (sending me to rehab for three months) in order to cleanse me of the self-idolization that had taken over my life. It was only then – through nearly destroying my life – that I finally recognized how severely delinquent was the state of my heart.

Thank you, Jesus, for that new heart and new spirit you gave me.

It’s available to you and me, every day. All we have to do is sincerely ask for it.

Oh the life that is waiting for us when we do.

Lord, today, please let us recognize any idols we may inadvertently have in our lives. May we be willing to do the difficult and humbling work to identify them, and then root them out by handing them over to You. Sprinkle us with Your cleansing water and give us a new heart and new spirit.

“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5

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112 thoughts on “The Idol of Self

  1. It’s important to remember these times in our lives, what memories are sparked and how their meanings shift over time. I was blessed to be given my Nana’s leather bound Bible after she passed. Her scent, unique handwriting and all the words she looked up are written in the back. Each day she guides me to a chapter and verse I must read and reflect upon. It’s how we maintain connection. As we grow, we resonate with different ways of looking at life. I too am in awe of the unconditional love and forgiveness of God. The renewed strength we are granted each day in our faith. At times, it brings me to tears of joy. Your share tonight did the same. Bless you Carolyn and so much love to uou you always 💗

    1. Thank you so much!! You’re so right about that – memories are powerful. Oh wow what a special gift that was. I’m glad you have that with you 🙂 Hugs and love xox

  2. Amen, thank you for sharing this. I realized that worldly music was becoming my idol so I hope to get away from worldly music and fill my time with Christian music.

    1. Thank you so much Jazmin! Oh I definitely can relate to that. The beats are just so sick!! But you’re right – Christian music is so good for the soul! Hugs and love xox

  3. Ah great reminder at this time when personal rights are so much of a focus. I have always felt that this all began in the garden of Eden when Satan asked “Did God really say?” Sand Adam and Eve figured the God was keeping something from ME! After all who is the center of everything! Great topic making me to look at myself. You just continue to address the important issues with such insight Caralyn. Thanks again. You are a gift. John

    1. Thank you so much John! You’re so right – everything always goes back to The Fall!!! I appreciate you saying that my dear friend. Hugs and love xox

  4. “Cleansing me from myself.” What an observation! That really is striking! All the stories in the news about people fighting over whether to wear masks or anything else is intruding SELF into someone else’s life! It’s placing yourself above the herd and pointing down in accusation and disapproval.

    I’m ashamed to say I’ve done that too, although I at least think I’ve gotten better about it at my age. But then how many times have I thought I was doing well only to have someone point out the flaws I’m not seeing. A good friend told me not long ago that my faith is weak. Before I could get my back up about it she explained why she said that. I was horrified and dismayed to understand how right she was.

    Have you ever heard of The Johari Window? It’s a sociology concept about self-awareness. There are 4 panes to the window. It’s a matrix of sorts. The four windows are 1) What you and others know about you. 2) What only you know about you. 3) What only others know about you and you don’t. 4) What neither you nor others know about you.

    We’re blind in two out of four panes. And only God knows what’s in that fourth pane. Maybe that’s why our blind spots are so glaring and destructive and why we really need to rely on God. He’s the only one Who knows all four of our panes. And therefore, all our pains. (see what I did there? 😊)

    Have a great weekend, my friend!

    1. Hi Jeff! Thanks for this thoughtful response! You’re absolutely right – everything on the news can stem back to people’s love of self. And I’m definitely guilty of this too! I haven’t heard if the Johari Window but it sounds so intriguing! And powerful – WOW. that’s the ticket – we need to fully rely on God – something a lot of us – myself included – could do well to remember in this season of life. Because you’re right. He knows the four lanes. You too my friend! Still have to read your email! I’ve been on hyper speed all week and I haven’t been in my inbox!!! Eek! But I look forward to reading it! Have an awesome weekend with your girls! Hugs and love xox

      1. I hope your weekend goes “sub-light” for you; down to 1/4 impulse power (sorry – I just watched a Star Trek movie!). Hugs and love to you also!

  5. Excellent post, Caralyn! Very well done and truly relevant. You continue to knock them out of the park. 🙂 Did that Monday, too, by the way. 😉 Have a great weekend!! 🌺

    1. Thanks so much Kenneth!! You’re kind to say that, gosh – I’m touched! Thank you again! You’re always such a source of positivity in my life!! Hugs and love xox

      1. Thanks, C! God has certainly used you to speak to me many times, and I know to many others as well. Keep writing what He places on your heart and continue to be a channel of His blessings. Love you, Friend! 🌻🌷

  6. By writing this, you will make a difference in the lives of people you will never meet. You hit bottom and climbed back into life, and I suspect there are others out there needing to do the same, but unsure how to begin. And I think it’s because too many have been sucked into the trap of individualism: “I can do fine by myself; I don’t need God or anyone else! I can handle my own problems!” Sooner or later they crash and burn, and realize that kneeling before God isn’t such a bad thing. You realized it before it was too late; hopefully others will follow your lead. Hugs and love from Kentucky– Mike

    1. Thank you so much Mike, gosh what a kind thing to say. I am so touched. You’re right – I owe every single thing to God! Hugs and love xox

  7. Caralyn, never lose the humble spirit that God has worked in you. He has made and is making you valuable in His sight. (1st Peter 3:3 + 4). Hope all is well and God bless. 😀

    1. Thank you so much Joseph! I appreciate your kind words! Amen! He makes all things new! Hugs and love xox

    1. Thank you so much Veronica! I appreciate your kind words so much 🙂 amen – His gift is for all and how amazing is that!! Hugs and love xox

  8. Yes, the idol of self; it’s the last ‘god’ we haven’t killed yet. There are no more temples of Osiris or Zeus where people bow down and burn incense. Although, there was the time when I was in Macau and walked by a casino and I saw someone bow to the fake ‘god’ in the foyer for good luck… hmm. Nevertheless, you are so right that we can still worship ourselves – a false image of who we think we are or are entitled to. German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote (and I am paraphrasing) that when God calls a man to come after him, He calls him to die, to die to that false self. The true self in Christ is a child of God where a Heaven Father loves him or her unconditionally, and we Christians are called to rest in that love.

    XOXO

    1. Thank you friend for sharing your heart on this. You’re so right – we are called to die to self. A difficult task indeed! Hugs and love xox

  9. I love your philosophy of life and your empathy for others. You have made God your friend and He loves you for it 🙂 It’s interesting that in English the central letter in sin is I. I guess that is the basis of idol worship when I choose any other pursuit than God’s will. Any substitute for God is an idol.

    1. Thank you so much Ian! Gosh this brought a smile to my face. And yes! We must choose God! Hugs and love xox

    1. Thank you so much Ms. Wanda! Amen to that – I pray we think and examine our hearts today! Hugs and love xox

      1. Oh that’s awesome, I’ll have to look it up! thanks for passing that info along! Hugs and love xox

      2. Here is the reference: https://timesofsandiego.com/politics/2019/08/17/the-uniquely-california-story-of-kamala-harris-political-rise/
        Yes it does reference a two year relationship but it addresses the issue, (not that there seems to be one.) factually and with respect. I think we should be celebrating the fact that women can now rise to these positions. Certainly in the UK, it initially took a long, hard fight for women to even be allowed to vote.

      3. Terrific – I look forward to reading it. Thanks again for passing it along. Hugs and love xox

  10. ‘There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.’ — C.S. Lewis The Great Divorce

    1. Thank you so much for this powerful quote! You’re right – those are the only two options!! Hugs and love xox

  11. Interesting post loved reading it,very uplifting message ,a message of strength and power promised by the Lord for all those who rely on him .Yes he has been cleansing us and has been renewing our faith by altering all that are not suitable for our physical,spiritual and of course our financial growth.Thanks a lot for sharing.Take care.🌹👍🙏

  12. Excellent article. When we come to Christ as our Savior, we “must be born again”. This gives us newness of life. It all depends on who you want to be in control. Christ or You…. If Jesus is your Co-pilot, you are sitting in the wrong seat.. be blessed as always and thanks for the rememberances we all need ot face.

    1. Thank you so much Dennis! You’re right about that! He is the driver 100%! Hugs and love xox

    1. Thank you so much! Oh gosh, what an interesting thought! There’s hope still! Haha Hugs and love xox

  13. Beautiful words and so true. It is our own selfish desires (idols) that lead us away from God, rather than to to him. Only Jesus can show us the lighted path to restoration and life. Thanks for your so vulnerable and beautiful words. God Bless

  14. God has done a very good job in you. Your words are true. Too many things are being idolized when the focus should be on Him from whence all things come. Blessings!! Have a great weekend.

    1. Oh gosh thank you so much. You’re so right- we need to focus on Him only!! Because amen – He is the source of everything! Have a great weekend too! Hugs and love xox

  15. What an amazing post! I love those verses in Ezekiel, as well as your insight into what exactly the Lord is cleansing: ourselves. I find it so loving that God works individually in the work of saving his children. God works from within, in the heart and soul. Those are the places where the most powerful changes in each of us occur. Thank you for reminding of how God can work within each of us.

    1. Thank you so much Robert! I’m glad this resonated with you. Amen to that – God works from within!! Hugs and love xox

    2. Thank you so much Robert! I appreciate that! You’re right – He is always working on us and in us! Hugs and love xox

  16. Beautiful. God did the same with me … allowed me to see I had made an idol of my husband. It sure hurts when he allows those idols to be torn down. But the resulting restoration of my dependence on God is something I don’t ever want to lose.

    1. thank you so much for sharing your story. Amen – our dependence on Him is everything. Sending you big big hugs xox

  17. This is a good realization to have, I went through exactly this so my heart goes out to you for seeing these things. In truth we will be given new hearts and new spirits. These words stand out as true.

    1. Thank you so much 🙂 I’m so glad this resonated with you! amen! new hearts and spirits! Hugs and love xox

  18. The whole point of anything to do with Self, is we are called to Die to Self, and talking from my own experience “Self” is a stubborn die hard featuture which squirms within my body, throught each pasting day within this New Creation that Jesus died to give as a Gift to sinners such as I was

    1. you’re so right about that! it’s a hard thing to do, but so necessary! Hugs and love xox

  19. Hey Caralyn, thanks for the inspiring message. There is nothing quite like dancing in the rain. More people should embrace it.

    Warm regards,
    Reid

  20. Whether it is the current political unrest that has made you think more deeply or whether it is your natural reach toward maturity, I am amazed at your new insight. Perhaps it is your new physical body that is making you think less of self and more about the spiritual, but keep up the search for higher ground.

  21. Love this post! Yes, I completely agree that our society has taken self-absorption to a whole new level. And I think this “idolization of self” is completely destroying our nation. People have become so inconsiderate and selfish, and it’s reflected in the way our country has handled this pandemic. We need God more than ever before.

    – Katie

    1. Thank you so much Temiloluwa! I appreciate you stopping by! Sorry for the late reply! Hugs and love xox

  22. Spot on for me today. Been thinking about my own “idols.” Your post is a reminder that a need to do a little house cleaning in the literal and spiritual sense. So well done! If there is one huge vice this society has bathed in it’s the worship of the self. Narcissism. on a grand scale. All the Lord’s blessings to you always!

    1. Thank you so much Sandman – I’m so glad this prompted some reflection for you! I’m right there with ya! Hugs and love xox

  23. I hear you, my sister in Christ. Only God had the power to make me turn my eyes of of me, myself and I so I could focus on His glory, His magnificence, His goodness and His ability to regenerate my heart and transform my mind. He’s been so, so good to me…

    1. thank you so much Rollie – you’re so right about that – He is so so good to us. We have much to be grateful for! Hugs and love xox

  24. So many of those “other idols” are just subdivisions for the idol of self. It’s so easy to find ourselves chasing whatever pleases us today… God just wants to be what pleases us most. He is the treasure.

    So glad you are at a place where you can look back and see God’s hand at all the mile markers. And tell others about it! Your post reminds me of this song, Holy Water: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KLQ2AXQmtA

    1. You’re so right about that, Linda! Amen – His hand was there every step of the way! Hugs and love xox

  25. This is so profound! I appreciate your reminder to examine our “idols”. You have grown in wisdom and insight during the pandemic – God has certainly used it for good in you! Hope you have a lovely vacation!

    “We raise up our own thoughts and thinking, and to anyone who contradicts, we are quick to strike back or lash out, all in the name of self-celebration.

    These are all broken manifestations of how deeply we have come to idolize self.”

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