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Sat Dec 14, 2013
by Ryan Williams
Confessions of an Idol Worshiper
Worship Is Killing Me
I was 23 years old, and already a few years into a fog of doubt and confusion that was slowly suffocating me. I was not unaware of my situation, but my diagnosis was way off the mark. To be sure, I knew that I had “lost my faith,” but I didn’t understand why.
The Grand Inquisitor
I had grown up in church, and was the kid in Sunday School with all the answers. I was a good kid, got good grades, and stayed out of trouble for the most part. I was smart and analytical. During my teens I examined and re-examined the reasons for my faith in God, each time satisfied (and a bit proud) that my inquisitions continued to vindicate my beliefs.
Until they didn’t.
One day I came to see that I did not know everything, that I didn’t have all the answers, and that I never would. This might seem fairly obvious to you, but it was devastating to me at the time. I would still say that I believed in God, and in Jesus (mostly just because I didn’t know what else to do) but my trust in the Bible had been pulled out from under me and the implications were huge. It felt at first as if I was falling, but soon after the curious weightlessness that settles in as one is falling for a long time.
Worship involves our entire life.
Life Goes On, Sort of
Fast forward a couple of years and I’m married, on tour with my band 9 months a year, and the darkness is now just the place that I live. I go to church when I’m home, I read ‘spiritual’ books, but I really have no sure footing in any way. I had previously wondered (with a detached arrogance) how people lived in this state of uncertainty, and now I was finding out. The worst part was worrying about what I would teach my children one day.
Wasn't This Blog Supposed to Be about Worship?
Yes. Many of us have grown up, either inside or outside the church, with the misconception that worship is somehow inextricably tied to music. Usually bad music. But the Bible describes it as something else entirely.
We Are Worshipers All
Yep, even you. Harold Best says lays this out well in his book Continuous Worship.
We begin with one fundamental fact about worship: at this very moment, and for as long as this world endures, everybody inhabiting it is bowing down and serving something or someone—an artifact, a person, an institution, an idea, a spirit, or God through Christ.
The point here is that the term describes something that is bigger than singing a song, or any specifically “religious” action. When you take your first bite of an amazing meal, when you witness the phenomenal catch in a baseball game, when you hold your newborn child for the first time, you naturally and freely proclaim your wonder and joy to everyone without shouting/tweeting distance. These are not bad responses in and of themselves in the right context, but they help to illustrate that we can’t help but worship, all the time. Worship involves our entire life.
So what’s the problem then? In two words - the Fall. We were created worshipping, and our worship was pure. But when sin entered the world, it changed everything. Romans 1:25 says that we “…exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” So our worship became bent, from the giver to the gifts. The Bible calls this corruption of our worship “idolatry.” So if you’re tracking with me, you’ll see that when we speak of an idol worshipper, we can’t only be referring to primitive people bowing down to statues, but to all of us, all the time, as we worship anything and everything but the creator of all things. We do this so naturally that theologian John Calvin called the human heart an idol factory.
My problem was that I was on the throne of my life.
Who Is on the Throne?
So, when we look back at me in 2003, I want you to see that worship, wrong idolatrous worship, was killing me. My problem was not that I had good questions that couldn’t be answered. My problem was that I was on the throne of my life. Specifically I worshipped my intellect. It was worthy of all honor and praise. It was given precedence. It was my pole star; it was the point around which my world spun. When I read my Bible, I stood in judgement over it, rather than under it’s authority. I somehow thought that I, small and finite as I was, was somehow qualified to judge God, and call his goodness into question when his every action did not live up to my standards.
The Veil Is Lifted
Through some amazing people, God eventually humbled me. This didn’t change my questions, but they profoundly changed the way I approached them. I have a tattoo on the inside of my left wrist that I got to solidify what God taught me as he pulled me from that darkness. In Hebrew, it says “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,” which is from Proverbs 9:10. Saying it negatively, when God is not the center of my worship, I was on a path of darkness, foolishness, and self-destruction.
It’s a lesson I do not want to forget.
This piece is adapted from Dustin's blog