At the end of maternity leave when Camden first started going to the babysitter’s house, I thought it would help the transition if he had something to take with him from home, so we bought him a blanky. Before we knew it, he was attached, well, maybe addicted is a better word. We even bought a second blanky so that we’d always have a back-up and avoid the meltdown that came with forgetting it somewhere. That plan failed; instead of a back-up blanky, we ended up with a little boy who insisted on having two blankies with him wherever he went. Remarkably, Camden (now five) still has his both of his blankies; they’ve never been left behind, at least not permanently. All of our kids have something soft and cuddly that they reach for at bedtime, when they’re sad, sick, or even throwing a fit. Recently, Kemper (my three year old) was in the middle of a meltdown because I said no to watching TV. His go-to comfort item, his car blanket, was in the washer, which intensified the meltdown. Soon he came in wiping his tears and snuggling with a kitchen towel; he had found a temporary replacement for his soon-to-be clean car blanket.
That habit of looking for comfort in the midst of struggle doesn’t disappear. Though we grow out of our need to cling to a stuffed animal (mine was a lamb) or a blanky, we replace them with more adult-like things. When facing fear, disappointment, or anger, we adults turn to food, alcohol, drugs, or other people for comfort as our blankies. After a long day of chasing kids, doing laundry, and cleaning up the same toys for the millionth time, I find comfort in a fizzy soda or a bowl of ice cream. Like me, I’m guessing you’ve uttered, groaned, or sighed, “After the day I’ve had, I just need a ______ (your choice of blanky)”. Biblical cultures had their own blankies; they were called idols. In Exodus 32, we read that while Moses was on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments, the people below begged Aaron to create gods for them (verse 1). Aaron obliged and created a golden calf for the people to worship. When Moses returned with the Ten Commandments, one of which was “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3), he was upset that the people had turned to idolatry. The Lord was furious; he said to Moses, “Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation” (Exodus 32:10). God did spare the Israelites from his full wrath, but his anger at the creation of false gods remains.
The Israelites used a golden calf as a substitute for God, which angered him. In order to make sure that we don’t do the same, we must first understand what God wants out of a relationship with us. What role does God want to play in our lives? First and foremost, the role of Savior. “And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:21b-22). He wants us to repent of our sins and surrender our lives to him as our Savior. He also wants to be our source of strength and comfort. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Paul recognized the Lord as the God of comfort in 2 Corinthians 1:3, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.” He is the God of strength and comfort, but sometimes we look for material things to fill those roles. When we feel burdened with sadness or heavy with fear, do we tend to reach for a blanky? If God instructs us to turn to him when we are burdened, but we turn to material things, aren’t we using a substitute for what God has claimed as his role? Doesn’t that mean that our blanky is pretty similar to the Israelites’ golden calf, an idol? We know that God wants us to turn to him and have no other gods before him, and we know that it angers God when we replace him.
So, how can we make sure that our blanky doesn’t become an idol? The next time you reach for it (whether it be soda, ice cream, comfort foods, alcohol, drugs, or other people), consider praying first. Turn to God for your strength and comfort. We don’t necessarily have to completely throw our blankies away. I am still probably going to have a soda or a bowl of ice cream every once in awhile after a long day, but if I pray every time I have that desire, I have a feeling I will be drawn closer to the God of comfort and may feel less reliant on the “need” for my blanky.
Father, thank you for being the God of comfort. Help me to turn to you when I am weary, burdened, and heavy. I know that you will provide the ultimate comfort that no temporary replacement can. Forgive me for the times I have relied on material things instead of you. Thank you for wanting to be my savior and for your endless love.