Recently I watched a movie with Angela Landsbury called The Love She Sought – a very succinct title. It was about a crusty, old Catholic woman, a spinster who is deeply religious, who was rigorously involved in and obsessed with the traditions of her church. It was an interesting portrayal of her journey from the torment of her closed heart and prison of her self-made religion to discovering herself and finding her real heart. The Lord had a message in it for me.
The religious treat Him as an icon, a doctrine, an object, a book.
The Pharisees saw God as distant and hard, like themselves.
When we were in Bethlehem years ago at the Catholic site where Jesus was supposedly born, we saw many icons hanging from the ceiling. They were lifeless. They were just… objects. That memory still haunts me, because it was cold and creepy and dead.
The story of Lansbury’s character, Agatha McGee, so spoke to me because in some ways it was familiar to my own journey, but more it was His call to deeper surrender. It’s easy to hang up crosses and pictures and give only visual ascent to them, speaking religious platitudes, expounding opinions and demands. The truth is, it’s a torment to be imprisoned to rigid, unbending ideas and opinions, having to be “right,” believing you know what everyone else should do and be, demanding of others what you really never do yourself. I’ve known that way personally. God really wasn’t even in the picture. Why would He be? I’m my own god made in my own image doing my own will. There’s no need of Him. He’s only a symbol, an object, an icon used to venerate myself. That was the essence of the Pharisees, the religious of Jesus’ day, who John the Baptist called a brood of vipers! Oh, I thank Him for His mercy and forgiveness.
God is not an icon!
He is present and real.
In stark contrast, I thought of David and the Psalms, journals where He poured out his whole heart with every emotion to the Lord. How joyfully and unashamedly he danced before Him! Good or bad, he was real and he cried out and let God sort him out. He looked to Him and trusted Him with his whole being, because he needed Him desperately. He had a living, breathing, pulsing relationship with Him. And how God responded to him!
Watching Agatha’s journey, the Lord exposed some of my own legalistic boundaries. He was calling me to let go of every part of myself, my whole heart in absolute surrender and abandon to Him, my God, my Savior, my Abba….
An icon is two dimensional and flat, and you can get away from it. If God is nothing more to me than an icon, I can hang Him on the ceiling and go have a life in the other room.
And miss my destiny and the real Life adventure with Him.
Ephesians 3:19, Amplified
[That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience];
that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God
[may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body
wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!