The Ventriloquist’s Puppet

Spiritual growth goals can become idols. When I long for God to re-order my life to be more fruitful there is a danger that I unconsciously imagine Him saying what I want Him to say. I act like a child on a trail, running ahead of its parent. “Look at this view.” “What pretty flowers!” “Let’s go this way. It looks nice.” Patiently, the parent follows, and redirects, “Don’t go too far. We’re turning left here, not right.”

Isn’t our enthusiasm for our vision sometimes a form of idolatry? When we use our religion to promote ourselves, or to become more noticeable or accomplished people, we are worshipping idols. All idols are man made; their voices parrot our own, like the voice of a ventriloquist’s puppet. My mind easily runs away with imagined outcomes of friendships, ministries and churches. If those things flourish we might become elated and more wrapped in them. If they fail, grief and confusion result. How does God want us to walk in stability and true maturity? Surely it is to focus on His presence and voice, to sow seeds and bear fruit in our immediate situations while we hold our long term hopes loosely. God’s voice is best heard when we are silent.

What profit is the idol when its maker has carved it, or an image, a teacher of falsehood? For its maker trusts in his own handiwork when he fashions speechless idols. Woe to him who says to a piece of wood, ‘Awake!’ to a dumb stone, ‘Arise!’ And that is your teacher? Behold it is overlaid with gold and silver and there is no breath at all inside it. But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him. (Habakkuk 2:18-20)

To be silent requires hunger for the genuine voice of God. Silence requires trust that God is real; that He will speak; that He desires relationship with us; that He is more committed to our growth than we are. It takes humility and honesty to set aside our ideas and calm our impatience. Silence is surrender to God and His undisclosed agenda. One mark of the genuine voice of God is that it often contradicts our own inclinations and desires. Be suspicious of voices that echo and reinforce what springs from your own nature.

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