When Ideals Become Idols

Perusing through the kids section in Barnes & Noble where I worked, I began to make mental lists of the books I wanted my kids to read. Not only did I make a few lists, I picked up a book and took it to my locker to purchase later, in preparation for the day I would have my own little ones to read to. Walking back to the kids section, my assigned domain for the day, I continued to daydream about how wonderful it would be to have children.

I pictured a pig-tailed little girl running around with me in a pumpkin patch. I imaged many adventures I would take with my future girl, and I dreamed of sitting around a table with many children laughing and singing and eating together in harmony. I studied up on discipline techniques, and I read a slew of parenting books. My major in college was human development and family studies with an option in children, youth, and family, which surely put me on track to being an expert as a mother.

There were going to be no surprises because I had parenting all figured out.

Not only did I have parenting figured out, I relied on my grand ideals to usher in reality. I reasoned that because I wanted children and wanted to spend my days with them teaching and nurturing them, of course my ideals would come true.

Of course.

And then I had children, three of them, in five years.

Here is where I tell you what I know now.

What I Know Now

I know that it’s wise to have ideals. Ideals help us to persevere and have vision for our hopes and dreams. They are a standard that helps us focus on our goals. However, ideals can quickly turn into idols if we rely on them/put our hope in them instead of relying on Jesus and how He made us.

How Do You Know If You’ve Made an Ideal An Idol?

The biggest indication that you’ve made an ideal into an idol is that you become angry, depressed and/or anxious when your ideals aren’t working out how you envisioned them.

Looking back, I know that my ideals of motherhood were an idol. In all my dreaming, I had never considered my personality, my bents, trials I would encounter, the reality of sin in daily life, my own selfishness, my own limitations, exhaustion, marriage difficulties, and a million other intricacies that are of life and of me.

When our faith is strong in Jesus, we can weather the falling apart of some of our ideals. When we have put too much stock in our ideals, and they fall apart, so will we.

How Do You Avoid Making an Ideal an Idol

Give your ideals, which is fancy way of saying “standards”, to the One who knows every piece of you. Offer to Him your dreams, and ask Him to give you vision and faith. Remember that you are not a robot; you have a unique personality and woven skill sets and gifts imprinted in the weaving. You cannot be someone else. You are made gloriously! Accept who you are, your weaknesses and your strengths, and trust God will the details (Tweetable). If you have His Holy Spirit intertwined with your spirit, you are being matured and perfected. Let that work be good enough. Let the failures come, look to Jesus, and keep walking. The standards you’ve put on yourself are probably not the ones God puts on you. His standards? Believe in Him; have faith! He sits on a throne of grace, and His burden for you is light.

Ideals are good and helpful. The key is to take our ideals and put them in the hands of God, having faith in His plans and ways, and then walking daily with Him and communing with Him, always asking, “Lord, what do you say?”

Keep on!

Sarah Mae

Sarah Mae spends her days home-making, home-educating, writing, reading, and drinking salted caramel mochas. Her family embraces life in the beautiful Amish country-side of Pennsylvania. She is the owner of the community site Allume and the co-host of the national Christian women’s social media conference.