Are you paying attention to this article? I sure hope you are. I mean I REALLY hope that you read this an pay attention. Not because I particularly care about you, and not even because I really care about Jesus. I hope you read this article because it helps me to bow to my idol: His name is attention.
I could maybe blame other people for this “good desire” gone bad. Maybe I developed this really strong desire because I found myself miserably alone and ignored in grade school. Maybe it has something to do with my family of origin. I could mention quite a few other excuses as well. But they aren’t legit. I’m not fundamentally a victim. I’m more an aggressive idolater than I am a victim. I want attention. And I quite often want it more than God.
My idolatry is as old as the Garden. Adam and Eve had God’s attention. But they wanted more. They didn’t want grace-centered attention. They didn’t want Creature-creator attention. They wanted God-like attention. Fundamentally, they wanted to be God and receive glory as He does. So they exchanged the glory of God for that which is created. And in the process they exchanged the good attention of God for an inauthentic, shame-filled, mock attention--where they hide from God and only show him what they want Him to see.
My heart cries out something similar, “Please, don’t ignore me!” And it affects everything I do. My humor is muddied by this idol. If it will get me a laugh (attention) then holiness is secondary. My preaching and writing is often driven by this idol. That’s why I beat myself up after every sermon. Or why I wait after every post to see who is reading. This is one reason I study so hard. Why I write so much, and sadly sometimes it is why I preach.
It’s painful to admit to myself that my mandate is often, “so live and so study and so serve and so preach and so write that Mike Leake be the only boast of this generation” when the mandate in my office reads, “so live and so study and so serve and so preach and so write that Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen God, be the only boast of this generation”.
And you know what happens when I’m not the only boast of this generation? Do you know what happens when I feel ignored? Anger, depression, shame, etc. I sin on top of sin.
But it’s even worse when I do have attention. My attention morphs into pride, misplaced joy, and idol worship. And rightly enough it never satisfies (because only God can satisfy) so I hunger for more attention even in the midst of basking in it. And then soon enough even when I get the attention I so passionately long for I get depressed because I know two things: it’s not real and it won’t last.
I’m not a helpless victim. I’m an idolater and it has left me barren.
But hold on! That is NOT fundamentally my identity. I am NOT an idolater. I have been redeemed by Jesus Christ. This is part of the process of holiness. He is ripping this barren and empty idol out of my life and out of my heart.
This holiness IS VERY PAINFUL! I’m seeing my very identity being mauled, ripped, torn, mocked, and ultimately I’m watching the thing I have built my life around come crashing down. That hurts.
But as He is ripping this foolish idolatry out of my heart He is satisfying my every longing with Himself. I’m not sure what comes first. Does He increase my joy in Him and therefore I let go of idols easier? Or does He just rip out the idol and slowly in its place replace it with cruciform love? I don’t really care. All I know is that He is wounding me, injuring me, and tearing me into pieces but at the same time He is healing, restoring, and building me up in Christ.
So I’m making war. Painful war on the flesh. I’m making war to be satisfied in Jesus and Him alone and not to feed my idolatrous desire to have the attention of others.
This is the wonderful Christian life…