Can you see it? It's the light at the end of the tunnel- a reward for trudging through the three "lesser" seasons of the year. You've waited in anticipation and it’s finally arrived. It’s summertime! That’s right folks, the calendar pages have turned and sunshine and fun are staring you in the face. Students, throw out your textbooks and pick up a beach ball. Adults, shutdown your computers and fall into a hammock. Wave goodbye to the cares of the world because summer is here to save the day! Take a deep breath, look in the mirror and give yourself the seasonal pep talk, “I deserve this. I need a vacation. I've earned some excitement. I can finally tackle my 'to-do' list OR do absolutely nothing. The world is mine for the taking!” Summer is a season like no other; bringing joy and hope, rest and relaxation. Just beware, my friends, of the “idol” this season can become. It demands our time, our attention, our energy and excitement. We pour ourselves into it with nothing short of praise and adoration.
I, like most warm-blooded human beings, long for these eventful months as well. The opportunities seem endless. Soak up some sun, hit the pool and splash around to your heart’s content- Head to the amusement park, feel the wind in your hair and breathe in the familiar scent of fried dough and cotton candy- Pack up the family vehicle and hit the road for a beach or venture out to some roadside attraction- Swing by an ice cream shop or just support the local kid at his lemonade stand down the street- Enjoy a baseball game, explore a new city or visit a wacky aunt and uncle. Get outside- go hiking- take in the scenery of a national park or just relax on the back porch with family, friends and a few hotdogs. Top your evening off with a bonfire and some roasted marshmallows- catch fireflies in a jar, stare at the stars or play “manhunt” until it's time to finally go inside. Rest is therapeutic. Fun is transcendent. This season creates timeless, memorable moments. Just beware the “idol summers.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. I needn't go to extremes. I doubt that any of you have a “shrine to summer” hiding somewhere in your closet. I doubt that any of you bow down on hands and knees to worship "June 21st" when it finally arrives. Just be reminded that anything (and everything) can (and will) become an "idol" when it soaks up any notable level of importance in your life. It’s a natural tendency to pour ourselves into the things we deem "valuable" and as a result, we can't help but idolize them. We figuratively "bow down," "praise," and even "long for" whatever takes precedence in our hearts and yes, even a season can take on this identity. When something implants itself deep enough in the core of our minds it will call us to worship. While we may not carve graven images of sunglasses, cruise tickets or flip-flops out of silver and gold, the summer inevitably finds a way to steal our focus. There’s good news and bad news that come along with this. Most folks want the bad news first, so here it goes... Summer can’t change the reality of what happens in your life during the other nine months of the year. Summer can’t wash away pain, help you forget or heal any wounds. Summer can’t bring peace to a warring heart or heal a weary soul. Summer can’t save you from the burdens of life. So, what's the good news? There is one who can! He (and only He) is worthy of our praise. He (and only He) is deserving of our time. God Almighty sits high above the idols of this world; high above any desire we bow down and grasp for.
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. Why do the nations say “Where is their God?” Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.”
-Psalm 115: 1-8 (NIV)
The "idol summers" call to our hearts. We know that God sits enthroned above, but we daily crave a life centered on us, down here. Summer becomes all about what we deserve, what we've achieved and what we can get out of it. We turn the time God has given us into a reward we believe we've earned ourselves. The "war within" begins again as the enemy uses the months on a calendar to drag us away from the Father. He knows the things we so desperately crave; gratification, pleasure and contentment, and summer is advertised as the cure for what ails us, but doesn't the word of God recall this? The things we gratify are the things we treasure, and treasures will always claim our hearts. Ask yourself, where is your heart this summer?
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” -Matthew 6: 21 (NIV)
In Acts 17, Paul spent a time waiting for the brothers to arrive in Athens. As he passed through the city he grew deeply distressed as his eyes met the many idols of the Athenian Greeks.
“...I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown God. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth, and he determined the times set for them, and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him, and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.” Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone- an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” -Acts 17: 23-31 (NIV)
Friends, no "thing," known or unknown, above the earth or beneath it, is deserving of your heart beyond the Father. Summer deserves no idolization. Now, don’t be discouraged. You're encouraged to seek and find enjoyment in the season. Go crazy. Take advantage of this newfound lift in your spirit, but do it all with the mind of Christ. Summer is not your “free pass” to shift priorities, run amok and set God's mission aside. “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him,” but we still have a job to do, and in all things, strive to point the glory back in His direction. What if this summer, we spent just a little more time with the Lord? What if this summer, we made it a bigger priority to grow in faith? What if this summer, we let the Spirit take control of our hearts and minds? What if the mission statement of this season simply became "more of Him and less of me"? Let God lead the way and this could very well be the best summer ever!