The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; they have eyes, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear, and there is no breath in their mouths. Those who make them and all who trust them shall become like them. – Psalm 135:15-18 (NRSV)
“Papa?” I hear my seven-year-old calling curiously from upstairs, where we’re supposed to be playing Legos. I had told him I’d be right back, and I meant it when I said it, but I glance at the clock on my phone and realize that that was like fifteen minutes ago. I’ve been hiding in the bathroom all this time, scrolling through Facebook.
I’m hiding in the bathroom because, you see, I am a Good Parent and I know that Bad Parents stare at their screens all day, while their children watch them watching their screens and so learn from their parents’ Bad Examples. Therefore, to set a Good Example, I hide in the bathroom to stare at my screen so my son won’t see me do it. Instead, he will simply wonder why I’ve ditched him.
The Bible’s full of warnings against worshiping idols, but Psalm 135 names the scariest of all the reasons: you become like what you worship. If the psalmist is right, then I am in very real danger, here in the bathroom, of becoming like this sleek little god: loud with nothing to say, flashy with no beauty, outraged with no action, funny with no compassion, promising with no fulfillment.
“Papa, what are you doing?” he yells from upstairs. And because even I can sometimes manage to hear the word of the living God in the voice of the prophet, I dash my idol against the stones (aka put it in airplane mode) and head upstairs to try to be present, aware, loving, deep, and real, like the One I’d actually rather be worshipping.
God, save me from becoming click bait.
A version of this devotional by Quinn Caldwell also appears in Hard and Holy: Devotions for Parenting, a collection of spiritual encouragement and practical solidarity and messy joy. Order Hard and Holy here.