Being God

In Scripture, we are constantly commanded not to make idols. I’ve always grown up understanding idols to be these tempting things in our lives that don’t deliver what they promise – like those “5 Gum” commercials that make you think that if you chew their product, it will feel like lying down in a sea of little metallic balls while gigantic bass drums pound around you. Ridiculous.
But I’ve never thought of it the other way around. Of course, 5 Gum won’t care whether you make an idol of it or not. Nor will money, power, or sex. But people do.
I’ve just hit the five-year mark for wedding anniversaries with my dear wife, Ren. I didn’t enter marriage with expectations – or at least I thought I didn’t. I didn’t wake up the following morning next to her with a list of do’s and don’t’s and ways she could be the best wife ever. But they slowly trickled out. You know, the typical things we don’t say but feel: “Why aren’t you more like my mom? Why do you communicate that way and not this way? Why aren’t you as excited about my deep theological thoughts as I am?” Slowly I began to realize that I had all sorts of expectations of her.
And I had expectations of myself, too. I felt like I had to keep her happy all the time, which was genuinely impossible. Four years into our marriage, I realized just how impossible. She was diagnosed with severe depression – something I could hardly help her with. Mostly, I can only listen, pray, and remind her to take her meds.
It’s a tiring pursuit to chase after idols that never fill you. But it’s maybe even more tiring being an idol. It’s tiring being that person someone else depends on to work a miracle that you know for a fact you can’t work. It’s like Sarah demanding a child of Abraham. He just throws his hands up, as we all do when put in a corner like that, and says, “Am I in the place of God?”
I felt bad for awhile that my wife didn’t fulfill my every wish. I got bitter that she would get depressed and I could do nothing. And I felt almost guilty when, after going to Mass, I became filled again. I would find myself not needing her to fulfill my needs, not needing her to be happy when I tried to cheer her up, or having theological conversations with me. I thought I was somehow cheating on her by finding in God what I couldn’t find in her, as though she’d failed.
She did fail. Both of us did. We failed at being God for each other. We failed at being idols. She is not my sun, moon, and stars. And I am not hers. But we love each other. And I can’t imagine a day without her. Or, at least, I don’t want to. And when I don’t hold her to those ridiculous expectations, like a pack of 5 Gum, I start to see all the little victories she has each day… the way she’s becoming a better mother and wife, the way she’s growing more gentle and patient. I see her courage in facing each day despite the fact that her depression can often be nearly debilitating. I see her taking care of our three very young ones, doing what most women who don’t even have a mental illness wouldn’t even dare to do. And I see myself bearing the weight of being a father with more gratitude for her and my children, more joy at seeing their faces at the end of the day, more willingness to bear whatever cross God deems fit for me.
What a burden it is to be an idol. What a burden it is to be God. It’s a burden I’m glad I don’t have to bear.

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