I consider myself a polytheist. If you don’t know, that means I worship multiple gods. Most people think of religion through the lens of monotheism. Me? I’m a polytheist.
I should put a caveat here and say that I am a specific kind of polytheist. I am an unwilling polytheist. I didn’t set about getting my master’s in the gods that I worship. I just cultivated real-world theological expertise. And it seems I can’t help but worship these gods. To deny their power would be to deny the wind swirling around me or the color of the grass. I want to be a monotheist but I can’t help but worship elsewhere. I’m a Christian polytheist.
Worship happens when we give our hearts over to something, thereby identify the worth of any given thing or person. So while I wish I was a convinced monotheist, I have to look at what I’m actually worshipping and confess to you the scandalous truth: I worship many gods other than Jesus. And most of the time, I don’t even try to stop myself.
I have been saving for a couple years now to go on a big trip with my wife next year for our 10th anniversary. I like to travel. I like being in other countries. I like seeing new things. I like traveling with my wife. Now that we’re under a year away, it feels more real. I think about that trip a lot. I recount my money and keep running calculations, hoping I can finish saving in time to go where I want to go. I fantasize about this trip. I read a lot about it so I can make it happen. When I have a few moments of rest, I will wander in my mind to that trip. I have recently realized that I worship at the altar of Tripism. I am a Tripist monk.
When things are going well, I meditate on what could go wrong. I consider myself a quietly creative person. I don’t produce anything visual to prove that, but I write stories in my mind (and on the screen) all the time. My creativity often stumbles into my meditations on what could be wrong and I immerse myself in the intricacies of problems that do not exist. I create anxiety and pain for myself. I give myself over to what could be wrong. The temple of Disasterism feels home to me.
I like being comfortable. Like physically comfortable. People who work for fun baffle me. People who choose to use their free time to produce sweat and exhaustion are totally beyond me. Rest is for rest, not for work. I will often do what I can to avoid discomfort. Of all the adherents to Comfortanity, I am one of the most devout.
Perhaps my favorite god is me. Everything is about me. Everyone’s compliments about someone else, those are about me. Everyone’s tiny decisions for themselves, they’re really about me somehow. The way that the world should act is tracked according to their ability to keep their orbital path around me, the center of the universe. When you slow down in front of me on the road or when you ride my tail, my wrath is kindled at you for not bowing in my direction during your vehicular prayers. When I make a plan and you do not abide by that plan, I don’t care about your reason. You have deviated from the Sovereign Plan that I have for your life. When I have to repeat myself or accommodate you in my schedule or subjugate my desires to yours, holy war is declared. I am the chief of the high holy order of Me. I am my own most natural god.
I’m a divided person because these gods that I so naturally cherished find themselves to be under assault from Jesus. Everyone seems to think Jesus is so nice and sweet, but I have to wonder, “Have you even met the guy?” Jesus is not very accepting of his place within a pantheon. He is absolute in his monotheistic assertions. He makes war on me and hacks at me with sword and whip to drive out the invaders into his territory. He refuses to be “my homeboy.” He keeps on insisting that he wants to be king. He wants me to be a convinced monotheist.
For all his brutality, I have found Jesus to be incredibly kind to me. Ultimately, I know that the work of my lifetime will be to surrender all these other cheap wooden idols that always disappoint me. Even I disappoint me! My grip on them is tight, though. I white-knuckle their pedestals and don’t really want to hold on.
But Jesus. His kindness is what helps me to let go. There’s nothing wrong with being excited for a trip. But should I let something that could be taken from me by an unexpected bill or even by bad weather be something that perpetually holds my attention? Won’t that god just disappoint me? Or won’t I being punished in the present for all my worrying about the possible future? Won’t comfort trap me into a boring, unremarkable life? Won’t I prove to be too little in the way of serving as life’s fulcrum?
Jesus kindly weakens my grip on those other gods and their grip on me by hold my trembling hands and talking me down from the ledge. He talks the shaking fear out of me by whispering, “Yes, but I’m a better King, a better God.” His patience is promised to me forever, without fail. There’s no proving my love to Him. There’s only me seeing unceasing proof of His love for me.
We’re all natural born polytheists. But we were meant for spiritual monogamy. Only a good and faithful God would come to fickle people like me and not ask for me to earn what he has. He is the most demanding God in the world, but he is also the only God to meet all those demands on behalf of his people.
I may be a polytheist today, but I’m not planning to die that way. I’m planning on Jesus winning me over and walking to the end with me. I can buckle down to work on the idols piled up around me, but Jesus will keep walking in the middle of that pile and clearing a path out for me.
I may be a natural-born polytheist, but The Only God can work even with rebels and fools like me. I may be a polytheist, but he’ll free me of that. He’ll deliver me. One day at a time. Grace by grace.
One day I’ll be free.