PSA: I’m still on a half-sabbatical from the blog, and it is doing me a lot of good. I’m giving my mind space to refill with good thoughts, and I thank you all for hanging with me each Wednesday for a weekly conversation. I hope this summer is a restful time for you as well.
Tim Tebow had a meteoric rise to fame. Sure, he had some detractors. But for a few fleeting moments, he was our golden boy.
And then…life happened. Tebow’s challenges wouldn’t normally have been noticed much. But the popularity and expectations he had been bestowed with were wildly disproportionate to his accomplishments.
It became clear to me, and I know I’m not alone, that we had made an idol out of poor Tim Tebow. Perhaps we had expected too much out of a mere man.
But perhaps just as that lesson was about to sink in, the Patriots decided to take him on. Immediately, my Facebook and Twitter feeds filled up with righteous vindication from Christians everywhere. God had come through – not just for Tim, but for all of us.
I can’t help but think that the relief Tim feels of signing a new contract must be somewhat canceled out by the knowledge that the expectations on him have only grown again. So before we prop our favorite idol back onto his pedestal, let’s remember a few things about all of our other heroes.
My First Idol
Think about who your first idol was.
For many of us, it was probably our parents, or a close relative. When you are small, it’s easy to look up at someone and just be in awe of them, to believe they know everything, that with them, you will always be safe. Children easily imagine that they are in the company of superheroes.
It is an important day when we realize that our idols and superheroes are also just humans. For me, it was realizing that my parents could be wrong about something, even though Mom was a teacher and Dad was a pastor. If anyone should be right about everything, it should be them, I thought. On closer examination, all of our idols and heroes are fallible. Their armor can get dinged. They can fail. It’s a tough lesson to learn. Maybe that’s why we’d rather forget it.
The Pressure of Becoming An Idol
Our parents were hardly our last idols. Maybe there was a boy or girl in school, or an older sibling who made the ground holy just by stepping on it. Or when we first fell in love, we imagined that the object of our desire could do no wrong. Celebrity pastors become more than merely human in the minds of adoring Christians. Some people look to singers or athletes. Some of you out there have idolized a President, either current or past. And the line between admiration, and idolizing is a fine one.
Look, I respect Tim Tebow. I think he’s probably a cool guy to hang out with. But I don’t know him personally. Maybe he’s been treated unfairly by the system, maybe not. I know that God loves Tim Tebow, but God also loves Chad Ochocinco.
And I know that for a mere man, being made into an idol is an enormous amount of pressure. The higher we raise our idols, the harder they fall. Because everyone stumbles eventually. Every idol has feet of clay. Pastors can be wrong, or even make terrible mistakes. Presidents break promises. And the only thing we accomplish when we idolize people is set ourselves up for another disappointment.
When I Grow Up, I Want to Be Just Like…
Well, we don’t just set ourselves up for disappointment in our idols, but also ourselves. And that is probably the biggest travesty of idol worship. What do we do when we worship someone?
We want to be like them.
It was a bitter lesson when I realized I could not emulate the pastor with the smooth, silky voice who I secretly idolized. I could not write like the author who made it look effortless. I could not be the artist or teacher that those idols over there were. I’ve certainly idolized more than one of you out there. I have coveted your thoughtful blogs, your instagrams, your clever tweets.
Heck, after reading Love Does last year, I wished that I could be Bob Goff.
But worshiping and trying to emulate idols does us a disservice. We aren’t supposed to just be imitators of each other. You weren’t born to be a cheap knock-off of someone else. Bob Goff doesn’t want you to be a mini-Bob-Goff.
You were born to be the best you that you can be. And you don’t get there by setting up idols.
What do you think? Who have you idolized? Are we setting ourselves up for another inevitable disappointment – in our idols or in ourselves?