I never thought an albatross would challenge my relationship with God. This one sure did. Researchers placed 100 decoys on an island to attract endangered albatrosses and to encourage them to breed. But one albatross missed the message.
This albatross attempted to woo a wooden decoy by building a tidy nest and fighting off rivals. For more than two years, this albatross stood by the decoy.
“He seems to have no desire to date real birds,” one of the researchers observed.
After reading this story, several activities came to mind—like Bible study, prayer, and fellowship with others.
All spiritual disciplines. All potential decoys.
Jesus Decoys in Our Lives
When it comes to a relationship with Jesus, it’s always a lot easier to court the decoys. After all,
- Decoys demand nothing from us.
- They never argue.
- They’re great listeners.
- They won’t leave us.
- They don’t retaliate when we kick them.
The downside of courting decoys? They aren’t real.
- Visiting the sick.
- Giving money.
- Taking communion.
- Serving in an area you know to be God’s will. (This is the tough one for me.)
Now obviously, none of these spiritual disciplines are bad. It’s just that they’re not the goal. Like the albatross decoy, the purpose of these activities is to get us to engage with the real thing. Not to sit with the decoys.
Removing Our Albatross and Engaging the Real Thing
Spiritual disciplines can become an albatross around our necks if they are the goal.
That’s why (for me) pursuing the will of God is a tempting decoy from pursuing Jesus Himself. One should serve the other—never substitute for it.
Idolatry is worshipping anything that ought to be used, or using anything that is meant to be worshiped. —Augustine
Spiritual disciplines are the means to know Jesus. They are our expressions of love to Him. They serve to glorify and honor Him.
Him . . . HIM . . . HIM!
Decoys, on the other hand, are all about me. And you.
What’s on your calendar today? Think for a moment beyond the activities you’ll do to the reasons you do them. Sometimes all it takes to remove the albatross of spiritual disciplines—and to replace the Jesus decoys for the real Jesus—is to evaluate our motives.
Tell me what you think: What other Jesus decoys do you see in our lives? To leave a comment, just click here.
Bonus: Here are 2 resources on spiritual disciplines:
- So, You Want to Be Like Christ? by Charles R. Swindoll. Great book in softcover or Kindle editions.
- “How to Grow as a Christian” – My sermon series on spiritual disciplines, listed here.