Modern-Day Idols and Bridget Jones – Jeremiah 10
Reading through Jeremiah 10, I’m once again in awe of the Israelites stupidity and sin in idol worship. Why would anyone craft an image out of gold or silver, and then worship it? Hard to imagine.
Then again, there’s me and my favorite movie, Bridget Jones’s Diary. The plotline centers on the drama in Bridget’s life that becomes the content of her diary. She begins each day’s entry by listing her stats—pounds gained or lost, cigarettes smoked, men interested, books read, party invites received. She is, to put it mildly, a work in progress—someone who can’t get life quite right, no matter how hard she tries. And every success and failure is documented in her diary.
Aside from her British accent and chain smoking, I’m a lot like Bridget Jones. I begin each day with a list—keep the house picked up, limit myself to one Diet Coke, spend special time with each of my kids, work out, pray, avoid sugar, read a chapter in a book about something important, and so on and so forth. And then I determine each day’s worth by how many of those things I actually did. Like Bridget, pounds gained or lost, items checked off, stuff accomplished.
All in all, my lists are good. The things I want to do lead to good health and better relationships. While not everything is necessary, a number of things on the list are. After all, bills have to be paid, clothes have to be cleaned, and kids need attention. So, generally speaking, my problem is not my list.
My problem, I’ve recently realized, is the significance I attach to the list. Thinking that if I lose five pounds, and spend twenty minutes reading my Bible, I’ll be a better, more loving, more loveable person.
Conversely, when I fail to live up to my expectations, I feel inadequate. Or more specifically (and as my stats frequently read), overweight, lazy, disorganized, and unworthy of the approval I seek.
Thing is, I don’t think I’m alone. Every woman I know, from our high school babysitter to my precious grandma, bases much of her self worth on stuff that can be crossed off a list. For Christian women, that’s a tragic irony—tragic because, like everyone else, we spend most of our time working toward unattainable goals; ironic because Christ died to free us from the notion that we must earn our worth.
So it begs the question: Why do we keep track of our stats? And if we experience time after time the frustration and failure our personal expectations bring, why is it so hard to leave them behind? Is it possible to ever really be free?
Hard to imagine, because I’m a perfectionist, and my addiction to perfection has led me down a wrong road; one that has produced and nurtured a dozen-or-so strangleholds — because the things I’ve sought to make perfect have become my idols, be it my body, my house, my résumé, my relationships, my parenting, or my plans (I could go on). At one time or another, I’ve made my idols — and the lists they breed — more important than God.
So as it turns out, I’m not that different from the Israelites with their ridiculous idol worship. I am, in fact, just like them in my extraordinary stupidity and sin. In the past few years, God has been working to change my heart and move me toward the only perfect we’ll know in this life: Himself. And while that may sound pretty, I assure you it’s been rough. Coming to terms with my addiction to perfection in all its forms has been hard and sad and exhausting—at times, embarrassing.
But I’m on board with what God is doing; I want freedom. I want to leave my wrong priorities and endless lists behind. I want to be less like Israel, and more like Jeremiah, especially when he prayed:
I know, Lord, that my life is not my own;
I’m not able to plan my own course.
So correct me, Lord, but please be gentle.
Do not correct me in anger, or I’ll be reduced to nothing. (Jeremiah 10:23-24)
(Order Amanda’s book, Confessions of a Raging Perfectionst here.)
Amanda Jenkins spent ten years in L.A. alongside her film-making husband surrounded by plastic surgery and high-falutin lifestyles, which is where she became convicted and inspired to write about her struggle with chasing perfection in all its forms. Amanda attended Northwestern Bible College and graduated with degrees in Communication and Biblical Studies. She has taught Bible studies for women of all ages for the past 14 years, and is passionate about communicating truth in a culturally relevant and funny way. Today, she lives just outside of Chicago with her husband, Dallas, and their four young children, including their recently adopted 6-yr-old son. She is also the daughter-in-law of Jerry B. Jenkins, author of the best-selling Left Behind Series, and drops his name in the publishing world as often as possible. Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist was released in 2013 by Tyndale House Publishers. Amanda blogs at RagingPerfectionist.com.