God Has Vindicated Us for Idolizing Tim Tebow

June 12, 2013

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-New-England-PatriotsI thought we were on the verge of learning a lesson, us Christians.

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?

13 responses to God Has Vindicated Us for Idolizing Tim Tebow

  1. Meh. The best thing about graduating from high school was not having football affect my life anymore. Why a guy whose job is to grow big muscles and carry an object back and forth between two poles got turned into a bigger deal than Mother Theresa because he wears inspirational eye makeup is beyond me.

    • So…you’re a big Tebow fan, huh? 😉
      Yeah, the fact is that our whole culture worships athletes. Christians are just imitating everyone else because we have “one of our own” on the field. I think Tim is probably a very respectable and solid guy. But we do have our priorities all wrong when he’s the most inspiring guy we can think of!

      • He’s managed to stay out of the news for shooting people or going on ‘roid rages, so that’s a plus. He’s probably an okay guy in real life.

        I’m just amused by folks that make such a big deal about what a wonderful Christian the guy is because of the Tebowing thing. It strikes me as ironic–a lot of Christians mockingly point to Richard Gere’s Buddhism or Madonna’s kaballa stuff as examples of celebrities performing shallow demonstrations of “spirituality”, but because Tebow is doing Christiany stuff, it’s automatically totally meaningful and sincere. (Eyeroll.) I mean, he could be sincere and I hope he is–but just because a dude paints bible verses on himself doesn’t mean you have any idea what’s really going on in his heart.

        Oh, and I tried thinking of who my “idols” were growing up, and I couldn’t think of any person (that wasn’t fictional) that I wanted to emulate to such an extent. I mean, come on, that’s how episodes of “Criminal Minds” start!

  2. I don’t really understand why people idolize athletes and singers like they do. I guess there is something in their chosen star that people wish they could do themselves, like Matt suggested. “I want to be strong and fast I want to be talented and lovely. I want to be brave in the face of outrageous danger like that action hero” With so much media around us it is easy to see the blemishes of our idols. Perhaps that is why Hollywood is embracing the anti-hero. Maybe we more easily imagine walking-a-mile in their shoes.
    But it all comes back to …”You were born to be the best you that you can be. And you don’t get there by setting up idols”.

  3. My first thought is that God is a jealous God…

    I think we can learn from people around us, either from their mistakes or their victories, and improve our attitudes, outlook, health. But I think worshiping others takes it to a whole new level. I do think if we have these idols, we will inevitably be disappointed because they are human, fallible, fallen – and so are we!

  4. My husband, a guy who loves and understands football, is very excited Tebow is a Patriot (which is very odd considering we are Colt’s fans and vilify all things Patriots). He is excited not because he idolizes Tebow, because he doesn’t- he could care less about all the whoopla- but because he believes being in this organization will actually help him be successful as an athlete. He also told me that the Patriots keep pretty low key in the press and will work to keep Tebow low key. This will benefit Tim, hopefully helping him to be able to just be a person who loves Jesus and football, instead of some idol who most certainly will fail us all simply because he is human.
    Amy E Patton recently posted..Some are Called to Go. Some are Called to Shop

  5. Tim won’t be getting paid a dime until he produces. I think that is great. Can’t see him out performing Brady, so maybe they will make him a tight end to replace Gronk while he is out having another surgery.

    I became disappointed in idols back in the 80’s:Christians, rock stars, and sports figures – all of them. At this point there is no one I would like to be like except me. I have values I hope to uphold, projects I’d like to finish, races I would like to run, a secret ministry opportunities, but I am well past being anyone’s idol or caring if people look up to me. I have never done much of great importance. I am happy to live a quiet life, while being passionate about a few things. Hey – I have almost 50 followers on Twitter, that’s enough.

  6. Idolatry is what we do.

    Any of them will do. Our families. Our celebrities. Our vacations. Our cars.Ourselves. Our…whatevers.

    We really do need a Savior.
    theoldadam recently posted..The Biblical Christian Paradigm

  7. Tebow hasn’t fallen yet.

    When he has, he’ll end up playing for my team, the Vikings, and that’s how you’ll know it’s time to write the appropriate fallen-idol post.
    Julie recently posted..How to turn your blog into an ebook.

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