I realize now that I loved Jim far more than I loved God. It took me awhile to recognize this, but admitting it and accepting it was another huge step in my journey.
But he was your husband, you might say. You’re supposed to love, honor, and cherish him. Indeed that is true, and indeed I did. But I also put Jim in the center of my life and my field of vision – and that was wrong. I broke the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). There are many obvious gods and false idols in this world – the god of money, the god of luxury, the god of status, the god of alcohol or drugs – and many people worship them instead of the One true God. Jim was my god; he was my idol. He was a gift to me, but I loved the gift more than the Giver of that gift. I even blatantly stated that every morning for five years in my prayer to God when Jim left for work: “Please, Lord, get Jim to work safely and bring him home safely, too… because he’s everything in the world to me and I love him so much.” In the corporation of my life, Jim held a much higher position than God did.
No, God does not demand that a certain percentage of our thoughts be consumed with Him… we don’t punch a time clock. Yes, He surely must have been proud of the love that Jim and I had for each other – after all, it was God Himself who gave it to us. And God is certainly not saying that we should not love everyone in our life; in fact, He commands us to love them. And I’m certainly not saying that I should have loved Jim any less than I did. But the fact of the matter is that I cared far more about my relationship with my husband than my relationship with my Creator.
Everything good that we have, everything good that we see, exists because of God (check it out in James 1:17). Everything from the bright sun in the sky to that cool new lamp from Pier One. Everything from the majesty of the ocean to that bottle of Poland Spring water. Everything from the endless green fields of corn to that bag of Fritos corn chips. And then, of course, there’s Jesus.
How do we even begin to thank Jesus for the gift of His life and His sacrifice for our salvation? We can live our lives loving, trusting, and obeying Him… but it still doesn’t even come close to reciprocating what He did – and still does – for us. He gives us His endless love, His infinite grace, His abounding mercy, His constant faithfulness, His tireless patience, His radical forgiveness. And that’s just the beginning. He asks so little of us, and we give Him so little… yet He gives so much in return. Lucky for us He’s not keeping score.
God constantly provides us with presents as if every day is our birthday. Sometimes He delivers them as a direct shipment from the throne, like those gasp-out-loud pink and purple sunsets. Other times, He uses a courier service – like the neighbor who brought you dinner when you broke your arm and couldn’t cook. Our families, our friends, our health, our homes, our freedom, our cars, our jobs – they’re all blessings and gifts from above given from our Father who loves to give.
But where do those gifts appear in our field of vision? What do we spend more time focusing on? When we peek through an optical lens at our lives, what do we see? (Caution: Objects in mirror are closer than they appear!) When we look at the eye chart of our priorities, what figure stands out like the big, bold E on the top line?
When I asked myself those questions some time after 9/11 and answered them honestly, the truth alarmed me. That’s when I realized that Jim was clearly in the foreground, while God was barely visible in the periphery. There was a giant J on the top line of my eye chart… but it didn’t stand for Jesus.
Jim was a precious gift to me, but he was on loan. For a long time, I didn’t understand that. Removing Jim from my field of vision prompted me to notice God… unfortunately, it took a tragedy for that to happen. But because of that tragedy, I can see more clearly. Is my vision 20/20 now? No, and it won’t be – until the day I stand before the Divine Ophthalmologist and He perfects it. But it’s amazing what a pair of corrective lenses will do for our spiritual eyesight…