Only Room for One God

Aug 30 / Katie Skurja
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. ~ Isaiah 55:8

“Can you bring your dad into the Light and give him to God?” I asked.

“Yes, that is easy.”

“Can you bring your mom into the Light and give her to God?”

Nine-year old Justin cocked his head to one side, scrunched up his face, and said, “Now that is a bit harder.”

Justin’s mom was in the process of filing for divorce when she came to see me. She wanted help for her kids as they walked through the difficult stages of grief over the death of the marriage. Though their father’s multiple affairs had prompted the divorce, he had convinced the children, especially Justin, that it was Mom’s fault for tearing up the family. Thus, it was no surprise to me that young Justin could not bring his mother into the Light. Even though it was clear that he loved her very much, it was my guess he was judging her as the “bad” one.

I checked out my hypothesis.

“Justin, when you think about your parents getting a divorce, how do you feel about your Mom and Dad?”

“I am angry at Mom. She is hurting Dad and tearing apart our family.”

“Does it feel like it is Mom’s fault? Like she is ‘more bad’ than Dad?”

“Yes,” he said, nodding his head.

“When you think about Mom and Dad this way, is your heart more open to one than the other?”

With a surprised look on his face, he said, “It is more open to my dad.”

Knowing that he was a precocious and intelligent young man, I explained to Justin that we cannot bring someone or something into the Light when we are playing god in that situation. When we judge what or who is good and bad, that is a way of playing god.

“We don’t make very good gods,” I told him. “And you never, ever have to choose between your mom and dad. They are both part of you in every cell of your body, so when you judge one as bad, you are also judging yourself. It is like splitting yourself in half.”

Nodding with relief and understanding, I explained he could give God back his job of being God. He didn’t have to fix the problems between his parents. Quietly, I led him in a prayer of giving the judge’s gavel back to God.

“Now can you bring your mom into the Light and give her to God?”

Tears of relief in his eyes, he nodded his head. “Yes, that is easy now.”

Countless times I have seen this dynamic at play with people who came through my door: Whenever we cannot bring something or someone into the Light, there is invariably either a judgment or an idol hindering the process. It had happened so many times, I had come to understand it as a spiritual principle and the reason why the first of the ten commandments is so important.

As a child, I did not understand God’s fixation with idols and other gods. In my budding fascination with what makes people tick, it seemed to me that God was somehow insecure and needing to defend his territory. Now I understand the first commandment of having no other gods as an expression of God’s heart for us and the desire for relationship: There is only room for one God in the Light.

When we hold someone in judgment (something that doesn’t align with God’s heart), we are playing god over that person. When we turn our power over to someone or something for identity, meaning, purpose, or value, the relationship becomes idolatrous. It becomes our god.

Justin’s judgment of his mother as “bad” rendered him unable to see her in the Light, just as the person who cannot bring their affair, addiction, or other idol into the Light. There is only room for one God.

We can see this dynamic at play in the story of the Philistines after they captured the Ark of the Covenant. They placed the ark before their god, Dagon. After finding Dagon twice fallen over in the presence of the ark, they opted to send it away.[i] The Philistines discovered there was only room for one God.

Time and again, when faced with giving up our false gods – our judgments and our idols – we opt to turn away from the Light. Many generations after the temptation in the garden, humans still do not make good gods, try as we may. On our own, we are woefully incapable of judging good and evil.

This spiritual principle applies to us as well. When we judge ourselves in a way that does not align with God’s heart, it turns us away from the Light. This is true whether we are denigrating ourselves, taking a one-down position, or making ourselves greater than others, lording it over them. As G.K. Chesterton whimsically stated, “In one way, Man was to be haughtier than he had ever been before; in another way he was to be humbler than he had ever been before.”[ii] The Light is a great leveler of persons and the only place where we can truly fulfill the second greatest commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself.

God continually gives us the freedom to choose. While we can and do eat from the wrong tree, thinking we can play god, Christ is forever inviting us to eat from the Tree of Life. Incredibly, we are called to participate in the divine nature[iii] with God. Yet, in the irony of ironies, it is only when we give up our right to play god, thinking we can judge good and evil on our own, that we are able to step into the birthright of living from the divine nature. Only then we will understand what Paul means when he declares, It is no longer I, but Christ.[iv]

If you would like to test this spiritual principle out for yourself, think of someone or some group with whom you have a difficult time. Who is the “other” to you? Who is the “enemy” or the “problem” person or group? Notice what happens to your heart if you picture yourself in the same space. Are you able to keep your heart fully open or does it close up in the presence of the other?

See yourself turn away from the person for a moment, turning to step through the veils as Paul writes: Turn to the Lord and the veils will be removed.[v] Step into the Light. Let your heart fully open in the Light. Now try to bring the “other” into the Presence with you, releasing them to God.

If you are unable to do so, chances are you are holding onto the gavel. Give it back to God, acknowledging that you do not make a good god. Ask God to give you eyes to see the “other” with the heart God has towards this person or group. Can you bring them into the Light? Can you keep your heart open? Continue to ask God to show you his perspective.

Be still and know that you are not God. That is a good thing.

We make really bad gods.

[i] 1 Samuel 5:1-12
[ii] The Paradoxes of Christianity
[iii] 2 Peter 1:4
[iv] Galatians 2:20
[v] 2 Corinthians 3:16

Katie Skurja

Catherine “Katie” Skurja is the founder and director of Imago Dei Ministries. Deeply rooted in and dedicated to Trinitarian principles, the ministry’s purpose is to help people everywhere engage in a Christ-centered healing process that transforms relationships with God, self, and others. Her greatest passion is to accompany people in the journey of discovering who they are in their Imago Dei (image of God). With training as a counselor, spiritual director, and in the work of inner healing prayer, Katie combines the three disciplines to help guide people through the layers of false self and shame in order to bring about the integration of the whole person. Katie and Jim have been married for 33 years and have two grown sons as well as a few “adopted” daughters with whom they share life. She loves to garden, hike, walk on the beach, cook, and read.