Last year, my mind and being revolved around two things: school, and reputation.
There was not a single day in my senior year when I wasn’t focused on at least one of the two. My fingers split their time between typing away school assignments on my computer, and scrolling on my phone seeing what everyone was up to. It became routine, a normality, often overlapping onto other things I should’ve paid more mind to.
I wanted to get into college, as did most everyone in my senior class. Fall abruptly started with the flurry of college applications, and my life revolved around stats, deadlines, transcripts, and questionnaires. There was a specific school I had in mind that I always thought was the one, but deep down, I was scared that my chances of being accepted weren’t as high as others around me. I spent hours at libraries and coffee shops mulling over textbooks, reciting math equations in my head. If I got into this school, if I could prove to everyone what I went through was worth it, I’d be satisfied.
There was a relationship I had just gotten out of. A tolling one, making me believe that I had nothing else to hold onto besides that person. I spent weeks doubting myself as to whether I was connected to people solely based on being with that person. I questioned my worth, my sense of individuality, and was apt to seeking approval from others to reassure I was liked, thought about, cared for. I spent hours seeing what others were up to at a distance, monitoring my social feedback to calm whatever fears I had. If I had confirmation that all these people liked me, that I was worth it, then I’d be satisfied.
In the end though, no matter how hard I studied, no matter how many smiles I directed towards people, I never felt that true feeling of peace. Even when I received that acceptance letter from this school, or some really affirming conversations with those friends, I still messed up on tests, and I didn’t immediately become best friends with everybody. I was still let down, and all the while there seemed to be a hole in my heart whispering that something was still missing.
The truth is, I was putting my faith of satisfaction in temporary and conditional idols. Things that are of this earth, that aren’t anything what God has promised or promoted to His people. My harmless goals of acceptance in my life took over and became my lifeline. The if, then mindset came out. I expected that if my goals were met in all areas of my life, then I’d be completely and totally content. Oh, was I wrong.
In a spiritual sense, idols are anything that distracts our focus away from the Lord.
It’s anything that we try to seek completeness in. Looking back, I can definitely say that school and relationships took the front seat. Instead of youth group, I stayed home and studied. Instead of finding my self worth through what He says of me, I found it through likes and comments. Not to say that studying or social media are awful things by any means, it just became a placeholder for what would make me truly happy.
In my devotional book, Living Free by Beth Moore, there was a verse that stuck out to me for a lesson much like the topic I’m writing about:
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare (Isaiah 55:1-2)
^To give some biblical background knowledge and some scriptural sense; wine, milk, and bread were considered both luxury and necessity of survival. While God is providing those literal things to an exiled nation, He is also beckoning to us to come to Him. Allowing us to walk away from what is starving us spiritually, and partake in the love and fulfillment that’s always been meant for us though Him. He offers this without cost, a symbol of unconditional love. He is asking us why we would work tirelessly, and spend our effort on what does not bring us true peace. And as you can conclude from the last statement, our soul will delight.
As a graduated high-school senior, I completely understand the pressure we put on ourselves to succeed. I understand how in that moment of weakness, it can be easy for earthly things to take up our focus and time. I get how school or club sport teams becomes our god, how partying becomes your god, how fretting over social media became my god.
We are human, and so we get caught up in human, earthly things. The thing is, whether we know it or not, we were made by God, in His image. Consequently, the only way to truly feel that satisfaction is through finding our way back.
Put things into perspective, and when you find yourself at a crossroads, ask yourself if this action or concept has anything to do with God.
- Am I starting to rely on this for my happiness?
- Will it bring me lasting, soul-satisfying fulfillment, or is it a temporary fix?
- Do you feel empty afterwards, like something is still missing?
I truly hope that this inspires you to do a bit of thinking about ways you could free yourself of fixes. I’ve spoken to many friends about this problem, so find solace in the fact that you’re not alone if that’s the case. You were never alone from the start.