Idolatry is a Pitching Wedge.

Yesterday I played a round of golf.  Heading into hole 15, I needed two strokes to catch the leader.  Either I had to step it up, or he had to make a mistake.  As I swung, my heart was racing.  Adrenaline in my sytem took control, and I had what was probably the longest, best drive of my life.  Easily 250 yards, dead straight, middle cut of the fairway.  I was ecstatic.  I glanced again at the score card, made my way to my second shot, and amazingly repeated the same accuracy, reaching the green in only two shots.

Those of you who have ever played golf with me know how atypical (and borderline unbelievable) this whole scenario is.  Those of you with an internet connection and a decent memory might also know that even if I had made time in my schedule for a round of golf yesterday, the weather in western NC was terrible, and I would not have played.

I was playing a video game.  Tiger Woods Golf on my Playstation 2.  (I know, PS2 is sooo early-2002.  Give me a break.  It works just fine.)  But the odd thing is that if you had put those fancy heart monitor leads on me while playing, it would have been tough to argue that I wasn’t actually experiencing a round of golf.  I was nervous, excited, angry, and my heart really was racing as I played.

The thing about my experience yesterday that is so telling is what I put off doing so that I could play video games.  We are in the process of writing and sending our annual end-of-year financial support appeal letter.  I should have been finishing it to send to the printer so that we could effectively raise support.  Instead, I opted for the thrill of the back nine at the TPC at Sawgrass.  Why?

If you are ever looking for a way to understand your heart, asking the question “Why?” always gets you there the fastest.  For me, today’s answer to yesterday’s question is complex.  I desperately long to be powerful, in control, and respected.  These are just a few of the idols I bow down to (and repent of bowing down to) on a daily and hourly basis.  The video game told me yesterday I was worth something.  I have a “career earnings” on the game of well over $10,000,000.00.  In the interest of full disclosure, I grossed $16,200.53 in my first full year of staff with Campus Crusade.  I’m better at making virtual money.  The video game told me I was talented and competent.  I holed a 45 foot eagle putt, and beat Tiger Woods in head-to-head match play.

I got lied to by a 6-year-old piece of electronic equipment.  The lie wasn’t necessarily that I am competent, talented, worth something, or wealthy; but that the basis for those things could ever be found in a video game.  Jesus must have rolled his eyes when I got nervous over a putt on a video game that really did not (nor could not possibly) matter in the grand scheme.

My aversion to raising financial support is that it almost never feeds my idols of self-reliance and control.  I am laid bare (thankfully only metaphorically) before the people that I challenge to join us financially.  In a culture that relentlessly feeds isolation and independence, I am forced to depend on others, and engage in community.  Raising support forces me to do that, and to experience the rush of trusting God for his provision.  That’s a sensation that is far more real than any video game can deliver.

Now if only I could remember that the next time my favorite idols come calling.

And while I am at it, you can join our team of financial ministry partners here.