I’m sitting in a coffee shop reflecting on the summer (it’s the first day of school). It’s been one of the best summers of my life. I took three weeks off in July and had an absolute blast with my family. That’s always good and restorative. But something deeper went on as well. I spent a good part of the summer reading, re-reading, re-reading again Tim Keller’s Counterfeit Gods. The best part of the summer was (and continues to be) identifying my idols and functional saviors, confessing them, and praying for Jesus to replace them with the glorious treasure of Himself.
My journey this summer reminds me of a scene in C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia, Book 3). Eustace, an unbearably self-centered boy, discovers the cave of a dying dragon. The cave is full of treasures, and he imagines how rich and powerful he’ll be if he could have it all. He falls asleep dreaming of being a dragon. When he wakes up, he discovers that he’s become one. Several times, after Eustace is now sorry for the way he has acted, he tries to peel the scaly dragon skin off of himself only to find a new layer underneath. Each time he thinks he has peeled the last layer, he finds it is too deep to remove. After these failed attempts, Aslan, the King Lion and Christ figure, removes the dragon skin for Eustace. In Lewis’ story, Eustace retells the event like this:
“The very first tear Aslan made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off….Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off—just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt—and there it was lying on the grass; only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been.”
Identifying the idols in our hearts, on the surface or hidden deep below, is an excruciating process but ever so liberating. I’m daily reminded of Tim Keller’s words: “Idols cannot be removed. They must be replaced.”