I wrote a version of this fable about four years ago. My dear friend, Jules, left an encouraging word on this very blog about it being even stronger than my undergraduate work. In my estimation, “homemade gods” v.1.0 was a good start, but in comparison to the under-girding thoughts, the piece was underdeveloped and showing seams, kind of like trying to pull a newborn’s outfit onto a toddler’s body. So I always kept “homemade gods” in the back of my head (with a lot of other things, I might add…) meaning to revise and expand her at least once more.
Well, here she is. What do you think, Jules?
“Now they continue to sin by making silver idols,
images shaped skillfully with human hands…” (Hosea 13:2, NLT)
I’m never satisfied. So I have to make a lot of gods.
Imagine, just to illustrate, that I’m a shredded wheat farmer—
One day, I’m dying of hunger. There’s no rain to break the ground and bring me more of my shredded wheat. Shredded wheat goes so well with the frosting from the family down the road, but I wouldn’t dare go down there to ask for anything. So I pray for rain; I’m a farmer. A farmer has to have rain to survive. Rain or starve, right? My faith is so solid, I dance a rain-jig in my fields with TWO umbrellas. I won’t rest until God is thoroughly impressed. Then the rain comes and I’m happy.
Another day, the rains fall and fall. Every little dip in the earth brims with water and sludge. Rivers tear through MY impeccably tilled rows of baby wheats, and I’m in danger of running out of cereal again. I hate rain! Bring on the sun, I demand, or I’m ruined! I daydream of deserts, run the heater and the hairdryer nonstop, and tell jokes with lots of dry humor. Any little bit helps. Then the sun breaks through and I’m happy.
That afternoon, after napping on the porch, I get a sunburn. I cry and cry. It gave me a lobster face! So I curse at the sun, pray that rain stays away (raindrops sting a fresh burn!) and urge the earth to grow me some aloe by six. See, I have a meeting with a friend from the frosting farm, and I need to impress. To make matters worse, the aloe plants turn out to be as typically unreliable as all the silly, growing things on my farm. So I ditch the healing idea and praise the power of makeup for bringing me tinted moisturizer. Appealing to the ice maker, faithful as he could’ve been in churning out a cold compress, slips my mind as I’m getting ready to leave. Once at the frosting farm, my friend compliments my taste in umbrellas and I’m happy.
Then I turn my gaze, after the meeting in the coolness of twilight as I walk back home, up ahead to the fields I call mine. And although I know shredded wheat is a full-sun perennial, I can see in this falling darkness that fat, wholesome clusters of shredded wheat buds are blossoming into golden, rectangular biscuits. Though I’d tilled and sown, weeded and watered, none of my cajoling had ever brought the growth. Not when I’d ordered God, or found some way to work without Him, had I ever achieved a single sprout. So I slipped into my bed weeping and thanking Him. Despite all my complaints and my busy scheme-crafting, I never, ever starved.
“What profit is the idol when its maker has carved it,
Or an image, a teacher of falsehood?
For its maker trusts in his own handiwork
When he fashions speechless idols.
Woe to him who says to a piece of wood, ‘Awake!’
To a mute stone, ‘Arise!’
And that is your teacher?
Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver,
And there is no breath at all inside it.
But the Lord is in His holy temple.
Let all the earth be silent before Him.” (Habakkuk 2:18-20, NASB)
Father, you’re nothing like an idol. An idol is just a powerless lump of carved wood, a dead thing I have manipulated and tried to make my friend. I can’t possibly hold You in my hand and move you around like a doll. You hold me, as a branch that you feed with Your own life. You are the Vine, truly and fully alive. I will till quietly, and watch you grow my life up within and all around me.
“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NASB)