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High Hopes and Dreams

May 25, 2012

I spoke with a friend of mine yesterday whose six-year old son was crushed because his baseball team had lost in a tournament, and his season was over. This child is an exceptionally talented player and baseball is his great love. This loss was exacerbated by the fact that his brother’s team was still winning and moving along in the tournament. My friends said her son spent hours crying in disappointment this weekend. We talked about how as adults we can look at this event and brush it off. But as a child who loves sports, a baseball championship represents perhaps one of his highest hope and dreams.

I am always challenged when I think about what my highest hopes and dreams are. I can remember as a child wanting to win so bad that I would cry in disappointment, and inside knowing that somehow my reaction seemed too extreme for the situation. And even now, if I lose my temper with the kids over something benign, it is usually a points to an  overweighted hope or desire (say towards order, or obedience, success, effeciency or my agenda for the day). These things are basically what the Bible refers to as idols.

This brings me to a passage I happened upon in Isaiah 44 this morning.

13-17The woodworker draws up plans for his no-god, traces it on a block of wood. He shapes it with chisels and planes into human shape—a beautiful woman, a handsome man, ready to be placed in a chapel. He first cuts down a cedar, or maybe picks out a pine or oak, and lets it grow strong in the forest, nourished by the rain. Then it can serve a double purpose: Part he uses as firewood for keeping warm and baking bread; from the other part he makes a god that he worships—carves it into a god shape and prays before it. With half he makes a fire to warm himself and barbecue his supper. He eats his fill and sits back satisfied with his stomach full and his feet warmed by the fire: “Ah, this is the life.” And he still has half left for a god, made to his personal design—a handy, convenient no-god to worship whenever so inclined. Whenever the need strikes him he prays to it, “Save me. You’re my god.”

18-19Pretty stupid, wouldn’t you say? Don’t they have eyes in their heads? Are their brains working at all? Doesn’t it occur to them to say, “Half of this tree I used for firewood: I baked bread, roasted meat, and enjoyed a good meal. And now I’ve used the rest to make an abominable no-god. Here I am praying to a stick of wood!”

20This lover of emptiness, of nothing, is so out of touch with reality, so far gone, that he can’t even look at what he’s doing, can’t even look at the no-god stick of wood in his hand and say, “This is crazy.”

As I read this passage, I thought about what a great analogy for idols it presents. On the one hand, just as the woodworker uses half of the wood for warmth and cooking, most idols have an appropriate and functional usage. They are often not bad things, but things that we have a legitimate need or desire for. Again, organization, or obedience, or productivity, or even a career or winning in baseball.

However, it is when these things transcend a mere hope or desire, and become a high-hope, desire or dream, they become idols. When we take a good thing and look to it for identity, security, or self-validation, it becomes an idol, and we are as foolish as the woodworker asking a statue to “save me.” As Tim Keller states, “When a good thing becomes an ultimate thing, it turns into an idol.” and “When you lose an important thing, you become angry. When you lose an ultimate thing, you become hyper-angry; you are devastated.”

This is an issue we face every day all day. It is always a temptation, to look for our deep need hopes and desires in things we can manage and control (at least somewhat). However, ultimately, our highest hopes and dreams can only be satisfied by the one and only all-powerful God who made us. And truly it is a good thing that it is not up to us because we don’t always win baseball games, and we can’t always make good business decisions, or keep a neat house or raise perfect kids. And fortunately, God invites us gently, to put down our wooden sculptures, and step into real peace, rest and joy.

And as we continue on in the passage, verses 21-22 read:

21-22“Remember these things, O Jacob.
Take it seriously, Israel, that you’re my servant.
I made you, shaped you: You’re my servant.
O Israel, I’ll never forget you.
I’ve wiped the slate of all your wrongdoings.
There’s nothing left of your sins.
Come back to me, come back.
I’ve redeemed you.”

From → Stories

One Comment
  1. Molly Painter permalink

    Todd,
    Thank you for the beautiful post. I’m just on my way back from the Broughton awards assembly where a caring, talented drum master received Ben’s scholarship. While sitting in the Holiday gymnasium i thought about the busyness of my week…how I neglected children because I was working on a presentation, how I chose to clean the kitchen instead of play outside with Julia or lie on the bed and listen to margaret’s concerns. Even though Ben and I were different, how easily I forget that part of him (that i vowed to carry with me) that took care to slow down and glorify Him, not letting time or Ben’s agenda get in the way of just listening. Your post speaks the same message to me. Love to the girls!

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