When my kids were young, I had them do a craft project to teach them the concept of idolatry. I talked to them about how we try to fill our hearts with things we think will make us happy. As part of the craft, I had them lay down on a huge sheet of paper and I drew an outline of their body. I then drew a circle shape on the chest of the body. I gave them a pile of magazines and told them to find words and images of things people might love more than God. They were to cut out the images and glue them on the space on the paper. It was interesting what my kids instinctively recognized as idols. They found images of dollar bills, food, television, phones, and toys and glued them on the paper. I then had them decorate their ‘person’ however they wanted. They added hair, a face, and clothes. One of them drew on a hat.
But the thing that stood out to me most was the frown they added to the face, symbolizing that idols do not bring happiness.
My book, Idols of a Mother’s Heart, explores idolatry in our lives, particularly as it relates to motherhood. While we might all mentally assent to the fact that we worship idols in our lives, we don’t always know what those idols are. Sometimes, it’s easier to identify idols other people may worship than it is to identify our own. How do we know what idols we worship? How can we identify and name them?
In my book, I provide twelve questions we can ask ourselves. These questions give us the opportunity to explore our hearts and see what those things are we might turn to for life, hope, and meaning outside of Christ.
Twelve Questions to Help Identify Idols in the Heart
1. What do you spend your time on? The things we value and cherish most are what we dedicate our time to.
2. What do you spend your money on? What we invest our money in is often an indicator of what we love most.
3. What are your strongest emotions? (Such as fear or anger) We often respond with strong emotions when our idols are threatened or we can’t access our idols.
4. What controls you? Our idols often define and rule our days.
5. What do you fear losing? What we think we can’t live without is often an idol.
6. What do you trust in to make your life better? Idols often become our refuge, what we turn to for help and hope.
7. What are your ‘if-only’s? Fill in the blank: “If only _____ happened, then my life would be better.”
8. What sin or sins do you constantly battle? Whatever we worship, whatever we love more than God, we will sin to obtain it.
9. What areas of your life seem out of control? Often the places we attempt to control reveal idols.
10. What barriers do you face in your life, keeping you from what you want? God often puts up barriers to keep us from our idols, to bring us back to himself.
11. What do you expect out of life, from yourself, others, and God? Our should’s and ought-to’s often reveal idols in our heart.
12. What do you feel self-pity about? We often feel sorry for ourselves when we can’t get what we want, revealing idols in our heart.
Take time to consider your responses to these questions. Pray through them and ask the Spirit to open your eyes to see what you may love and worship apart from God. Talk about it with a trusted friend or mentor and pray together for the Lord’s work in your heart, to evict those idols and replace them with love for your Savior.