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March 23, 2014

there is no other

"My friend asked me to pick up this wall hanging for her." It's Thursday and my friend has recently returned from an out-of-town trip. She's wrestling a decoration out of multiple layers of cardboard and packing tape.

Slowly, a brass sun emerges. "Wow!" I commend her choice, "that looks nice!" (I mean, glitzy and gaudy are the name of the game here, so a large brass sun is actually less showy than many decorations I see.)

As she pulls off the last bits of cardboard, I see that the sun has a face and a mustache. I comment, "That's an interesting face, for a wall hanging."

"It's a god that my friend worships. I mean, I worship it, too. You know, every Saturday when I go to the temple. It's the sun god." The words come out so matter-of-factly, as if we're discussing yesterday's weather.

An hour or so later, the dal and spicy eggs are eaten and we're still talking. "My dad is bothering me about getting married. He wants to know when I will marry. He wants me to make a plan for my life."

She looks across the table at me. She has serious eyes—the kind borne by a woman who lost her mother in her preteens. Whose father's job meant transfers around the country every few years. Who has said a lot of goodbyes. Who thinks deeper than it appears at first meeting. Who lives with many fears.

It comes out, "I'm scared to get married." 

I understand, I tell her. It's a big commitment.

And next, "I'm emotional. The smallest things that happen make me have mood swings."

I understand, I tell her. My emotions shift, too.

The conversation moves from marriage, to spouses who fight, to pornography, and back to marriage. It's empty in every corner for her. No wonder she's scared. 

I've thought that I am not one of those "typical" emotional women. It's true that I'm steadier than some. But particularly in the last few weeks, I was feeling unsteady. One day I'd be relatively cheerful, another tearful, and what concerned me the most was that it seemed almost out of my control.

I woke up on Friday with anxiety clutching my heart and I knew my day was starting off poorly again. I'd prayed, I'd asked others to pray, and this time, I'd had enough—enough of these weird mood swings.

I cried out again to the unseen God, the God who created the sun. I told Him how I couldn't understand my emotions. I reminded Him that only He knew why I was in such an upset state. And this time, I insisted. I confessed my sins, and I told Him I needed to hear from Him, because He promises He'll guide us if we are right with Him. I went back to sleep, and woke again a few hours later, with old truth coming to freshly into my mind. I believe He was answering my call to Him.

As the first hours of Friday's daylight began to come through my window, He told me that I have other gods, too. Not brass gods, but people gods. I have been seeking to find my significance, my purpose, and my peace in people. I want my human friends to be able to probe the depths of my soul, to know, love, understand and complete me. I want them to save me from my problems, or give me joy. When they don't, I get frustrated. My emotions rest on their success in pleasing me, so my emotions are constantly jolting.

He told me, "Free your gods, Julie. Let people be people. Appreciate them for what they are, bear with them for what they aren't. The bad news is that they are fallen mini-Mes, and they can only reflect to you broken portions of Me. The good news is that I know your heart, your mind, your emotions like no one else could. I will sustain you."
He told me, "I am God and there is no other."
"You shall have no other gods before me."
No brass other on the wall—I've got that down.
No human other in my heart—this, I struggle to learn.
And is there really any difference, whether my god is brass or human?
The heavy cloud lifted when I realized all over again that my significance, purpose and peace come only from Him. When I looked up to the God of all, He answered my cry for mercy.

I didn't ask my friend if she went to worship the sun this Saturday, but she usually does. And this Saturday, I worshipped the Son with a new appreciation for His goodness to me. But my friend and I are not so different. We have feelings that aren't rooted in His truth. We have gods we need to lay aside for the Living God. But when I think of her, facing the same problems, but not having the same help from her god, crying out and receiving no answer.... it makes me sad.

No wonder she's scared; no wonder she's sad.

It's Sunday morning. We're chopping fresh fruit, and rummaging for the toaster and butter. I tell her my recent story. About my unexplainable tears and moods (I tear up even telling her). About my cry for help on Friday morning. About the peace He gave me in reminding me to have Him as God, and let no other take His place. "He's so steady," I tell her, "People change; He never does."
The cantaloupe is tasteless and the toast got too dark, but I hope something in my words makes her hungry. My soul is litmay a few rays shine across the tabletop.

"...An unknown God....this is what I am going to proclaim to you."
"Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; 
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame...
 Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

All the chisels I've dulled carving idols of stone 
that have crumbled like sand 'neath the waves...
You're the only One who's faithful to me.

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
    he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
    I will call on him as long as I live.

When I taste Your goodness, I shall not want.

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