Friday, September 22, 2006
Last weekend as we took a short vacation to the beach we were looking forward to relaxing and escaping from all of the challenges in the Philippines. We were enjoying the ocean, sun, and scenery, and slowly drifting away into relaxation. We decided to take a walk down the beach. As we walked we noticed a small rock island right off the beach with a few trees on it. It looked so beautiful standing alone out there. It almost had a majestic feel, since the beach was so long, white, and sandy. As we neared the island, closer and closer our hearts sank. It was an island just for a groto (as pictured to the right) which means the statue of Mary and the surrounding decorations in the Filipino language. We felt our hearts sink as we realized that the distorted Catholic influence and Mary statues of this culture had followed us to the beach! The idols are everywhere at our home and we have now become used to seeing them, yet they constantly remind us of the dominant Catholicism here. The house that we rented has a Jesus and Mary tile plate above the front door and most homes have a Jesus/ Mary emblem on their front gate or wall. Also, as we walk through the neighborhoods, we are constantly overwhelmed as we frequently see in a lot of neighbor's yards huge, sometimes enormous grotos. Some have elaborate decorations, gold designs, water falls even, but all center around the idol Mary. As we stop at red lights, only on occasion, we look in the taxi driver's or car windows next to us and on the dashboard we see little, small, intricate, sometimes Jade idols of Mary, Jesus, other prominant figures, or saints. I have noticed recently a necklace on a black string which a lot of youth wear. I wanted one for a while, until I saw one up close and realized that it was a small, engraved, or sometimes embossed, wooden carving of Mary. My volleyball teamates kiss their Mary necklaces before they serve, or before coming onto the court. Even in the malls there are idols. At the bottom of an escalator in Festival Mall there is a corner set aside for a saint, it is the saint of blessings. It is set up on a pedalstool, looking down at you ever so lovingly, with one hand extended. It has directions pinned on her dress to come, hold the hand, and make a wish or prayer for whatever you want. We often see a long line of people waiting to hold the hand of the idol and pray to it. Even in some department stores on the hour of every hour, there is a prayer to Mother Mary that is recited over the loud speaker. It is everywhere, and there is no escape from this useless, and blasphemous worship. Not only are we constantly confronted with the idol worship from the outside, but it oozes out from us as well; Daily, even we as believers struggle with idol worship. Tim Keller says 'Something will capture our hearts and imaginations and be the most important thing, the ultimate concern, value and allegiance.' If that thing is not God, then what or who is it? Although our worship may not focus on ceramic, stone, wooden, or a gold plated Mary, which we see daily, we are still contaminated with the sin of idolatry as we set up our time, ministry, achievements, material possessions, human approval, and ourselves as hidden idols in our hearts. As we were bombarded that day with the idol on the beach, we were convicted as well. 'Romans 1:25 says we will worship and serve either God or some created thing (an idol). It is not possible that we should worship nothing.' -Keller We were found even more guilty that day as we ridiculed the groto on the beach. We continue to ask for your prayers as we serve in this country. God continues to work through us to build His kingdom, but He also graciously works in us to convict of indwelling sin. Please pray that God would continue to convict, destroy, and tear away our idols, leaving only space for Him to rush in and claim the throne of our hearts. Please pray that He would be enough for us, and our one and only source of true delight, as we seek and serve Him.