The Idol of Image
There has been something on my mind for awhile. I pray you will take the time to read it. First though, I want to say this post is not about anyone else. I am not throwing shade.
This season for me has been a lot about Holy Spirit showing me so much about myself and growing me in ways I could never have imagined. Life before quarantine. I loved it. I was growing. I was hardly ever alone, extremely busy and traveling. Nothing new. We all know life changed.
While I have always longed for marriage, it has never been hyperly a focus for me. I have always prayed for my husband and written to him, but I have never talked about it on a platform. Singleness is probably something you would say I do not acknowledge. I do not feel single. I feel 26 and exactly where the Lord has me. Yet I found myself in quarantine seriously struggling in my longing more than ever before. There have been days where I have been so exhausted from just being alone. Alone in the not sharing life and every day with that someone else.
One night, I was so afraid to voice it. I did not even know how to explain the hurt in my heart. Once I did, the response I was given was not one I expected. “Are you making marriage an idol?” My heart was so tired and I felt like it was just another punch to the fear of being alone forever. I do not think I said another word. I cried.
Over the next 24 hours, I cried and slept not one minute. Was I? Had I? Every little girl plays “house” with a “husband and kids.” I twirled around in my backyard with my dad talking about the day he would walk me down the isle. What does this my heart has longed for every day since I could remember really mean to my life?
Had I made this an idol? And if I had, was this consuming my identity? As I searched my heart, Holy Spirit filled me with His Peace. Then it later hit me, it was not about me. Our culture has made marriage the idol. The goal. The image. Our identity. In influencer couples. The beautiful photo shoots. The Pinterest boards and perfect wedding. The end all be all to happiness and satisfaction and worth. Our identity is not our relationship status. The “when I get married I will be _____” But only to keep us as far away from it as possible. As broken and bonded and chained up as it can.
Let’s throw twenty guys into a house and watch them fight over one girl to marry on national television. Then tear her apart. And then let’s take the guy everyone was rooting for and do the same with him and tear up the girls as they fight. Are we enough if we are not in a relationship? Why is she getting asking to all the dances? Why are all my friends allowed to date and I am not? Am I enough without it? As our Instagram feeds flood with beautiful pictures and captions full of “I love you more than life,” “You are the best thing that ever happened to me,” etc. in dating and in marriage. Keeping relationship/marriage on a pedestal but dangling just far enough away that we lose the purity and worship of a true union of marriage in Christ, that we fall for the false pleasures of the world, the schemes and the idolatry that binds and breaks in sin and impurity. This is the MOST MESSED UP reality.
Our culture has made the image the idol. Girls have always been heart eyed over love stories, but today Instagram is filled with the highlights reels of perfect pictures, curated captions, vacation pictures, kissing pictures (and we know so much more) to the point that the image of relationships and marriage become the idol. The idea of it becomes the idol but the perfection of the image is unattainable. Satan knows this and it creates so many problems. Life is not picture perfect. Most influencer couples, if not all, live their lives with camera crews following them around, being paid for what they wear and what they say and they have little to no privacy. "If I could just find a guy like..." "If I could just have a relationship like..." The image of love and marriage has become the idol, not the actual union of Holy Matrimony in worship and reverence to our Savior.
Satan knows we were made for each other. Satan knows we were designed for intimacy with our Father and with our husband. And he knows just how much that impacts our relationship with Jesus, our worth in how we view and love ourselves, and our commitment and loyalty to the Church. So he is going to do everything in his power to strain all of it. To make it all look enticing enough to stray us and distract us for all the wrong reasons and captivate is right into bondage.
It is not impossible to get out of, to be cleansed and redeemed and purified, but it makes everything harder. God did not create the garden and Adam and Eve to feel shame. He did not clothe them because there was no shame. The enemy brought in the shame and they saw they were naked. He has been doing it every day since. Disguising his bondage just enough to prey on the divine design desire and hook enough to bind and break and bring shame. This is what he is doing every single day in the idol of image.
A few years ago one of my mentors taught me something that has been monumental in my life. She told me that there is a whole life that is actually happening outside of social media and it does not need validation and recognition on social media to make it count. It is called real life. Reality. Satan has his tools and he surely uses them on social media. This week in our Girl Talk Live chat, I challenged us to put our phones down and see the difference in our day. Looking at our phones all day, what other people are doing, what we do not have, where we were not invited, who we are not with... all of this leaves us empty. This is where my longing to share my life with someone can quickly become the idolizing of someone to post with in pictures.
She told me our relationship did not have to be blasted all over to internet to matter. It was not that she did not want it there or she was ashamed of me, she just simply told me that she loves me, she is here for me and she will be regardless of what is on social media. It made me realize the intimacy and the importance of our relationship. I believe that if we lived our lives much more like this, off of social media, we would find that the idolatry of image would not exist. If we spent less time posting about it and more time cultivating it, praying for it, being together and investing time into our relationships, we would see less idolatry of image. Our identity can quickly become wrapped in the image. And oddly enough, our identity can vastly impact someone else's identity as they look to us. Just as you have people you see, people looking to you too.
As followers of Christ, we have high standards in not only how we live and the decisions we make but how our lives and choices impact others. Oversharing anything on social media sometimes hurts others who might be struggling with maybe what they cannot afford right now or a relationship they have longed to have. Being afraid of hurting someone is not always a reason to not post (example of being with friends when not everyone is invited, we cannot live our lives always afraid of unintentionally leaving people out) but I believe there is a way to turn the focus off of ourselves and to Christ in a way that is honoring to Him and protecting our brothers and sisters and not being a stumbling block in any way.
Holy Spirit has taught me a lot about myself during quarantine. I have seen the hard places He is breaking up and plowing through for new growth and healthy soil. I have learned things I have always wanted to do, like driving the boat by myself and pulling the tube. I am still growing and praying and seeing myself through the eyes of Jesus - always a work in progress and nothing without Him. And after facing Him honestly, I could confidently say no, marriage is not an idol in my life. Marriage is a desire in my life that I pray for Holy Spirit's patience, gentleness, protection, preparation and love for very single day as I pray for my husband and our marriage. As I pray protection over not allowing the image of marriage - now or ever - to be any part of my life. Lord, go before me, lay down the foundation and always continue to satisfy my heart. You alone.
I pray for us, no matter what stage of life you are in, that the Lord remains our first. Our first love. Our first response. Our first answer. Our first turn. I pray the idol of image stays far, far away from your life and your heart. Psalm 37:4 says when we delight in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart. Delight in the Lord and He will do the rest. He will satisfy you with good and beautiful things. You will have what you need. Seek first His Kingdom and His Righteous and all these things [we worry about] will be provided. Matthew 6:33
You are so loved and so adored.