What I Know Now {When Ideals Become Idols}

Perusing through the kids section in Barnes & Noble, 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.

Let me say again that I believe ideals are good and helpful. My point is that we should 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?”

You have lived and you have a “life-lived offering” to pass along to other women. If you’d like to write about it and share it, you may comment or link-up below. 

If you link-up, please do so with the url of your specific “What I Know Now” post (not just your blog url). Feel free to grab the button, the code is on the sidebar.



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  • http://newlifesteward.com/ Mary Beth

    We wrote along very similar lines today…my focus was marriage though. :)

    FYI, your link-up button grab box HTML is linked to Allume rather than here.

    • http://twitter.com/sarahmae Sarah Mae

      Thanks! Will get that fixed!

  • http://www.moretobe.com/ Elisa Pulliam

    Love this gift of words, “Accept who you are, your weaknesses and your strengths, and trust God will the details.” Thanks!

    • http://twitter.com/sarahmae Sarah Mae

      I have learned that the hard way…

  • Debbie

    Wow. this resonates with me all. too. well. whew. I’m really appreciating this post, Sarah Mae. Thanks for writing it.

    • http://twitter.com/sarahmae Sarah Mae

      Thanks for reading it!

  • Arabah Joy

    Sarah Mae, excited about your new link-up and your series! {I linked!} Happy thoughts for you today, friend!

    • http://twitter.com/sarahmae Sarah Mae

      Thank you! Will read!

  • MACH 5 G’S

    Oh how I needed to read this! Have you been secretly watching me as I attempt to parent my 5 little ones? God is teaching me to give my ideals to him and I love him for being desirous to take me on.

    • http://twitter.com/sarahmae Sarah Mae

      I have been! Bwhahahaha! No, we’re just in the same boat, friend. :)

  • Monica

    I wish I had figured this out earlier in my mothering. I’m very thankful for kids and a Lord who forgive.

  • http://www.servingjoyfully.com/ Crystal

    haha…so many things! I was really thinking about the “what I know now” thing a couple weeks ago when I was writing my letter to my teenage self…so many things! lol.
    I started a new link up on my blog today as well :) Must be a good day for it!
    (link if anyone is interested in linking up an inspiring/encouraging post to Thriving Thursday: http://www.servingjoyfully.com/2012/10/03/first-ever-thriving-thursday-link-up-giveaways/)

  • Tresta @ sharppaynes.com

    “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.” …Ouch! So true and such a good indicator.

    • Becca

      I agree!! That was the line that really stopped me in my tracks.

  • sonyamac

    Amen … to submission!

  • Elizabeth

    I so love all of this. At 53 I say amen and amen, again and again. Your honesty and wisdom are gift. Need grace though for linking up the wrong post. Will add mine though. Sorry for not following the instructions :( Your words speak deep deep down, tender. gentle. sarah mae

  • Laura Ingalls Gunn

    Hello I am visiting via the Nester’s 31 days series. Your series is so inspirational and leaves me with such wonderful peace.

    I too am participating in the series. My topic is “Decor To Adore~ finding your style”. I would like to invite you to stop by anytime.

    Have a beautiful day and a wonderful fall season.

  • A Mama’s Story

    I can relate to a lot of things here. My original major in college was Early Childhood Education and I figured I knew what to expect from children. Then it all changed once I actually became a Mama. (BTW, I had three children in three years/ total five in nine–so far). The posts in this series are great! Thanks for sharing. :)

  • http://twitter.com/Frugal_Bookworm Amy Looney

    Boom! I really needed to hear that today. My ideal of what I would become is nothing like the life I lead now. But I’ve still been holding on to that ideal. Reading your post helped me see that the Lord wants me to submit to HIS ideal for me….not the dreams I had long ago. Thank you for posting.

  • Becca

    Not only does this wonderful article continue to encourage and convict ME, it was JUST what I needed to send to my best friend who is struggling with having her ideal of 10-15 YEARS frustrate her again. Thank you so much AGAIN for sharing your thoughts on Ideals and Idols. Extremely valuable.