Several years ago I had the opportunity to see my all-time, most favorite comedienne, Carol Burnett, in a live “Q and A” type show on stage. Okay… to be honest, I bought tickets for THREE of her live shows that were all going to occur within a few days of each other in my favorite part of the country – the New York City area. I know, I know… a little “stalker-ish.” But Carol was my idol! She was and is the only celebrity I have ever wanted to meet and to see her perform live was literally beyond my wildest dreams. Her show had been off the air so long I just didn’t think it would ever be possible. But then, the opportunity came a-knockin’ and I couldn’t wait to answer! And then of course there was the possibility… maybe… just maybe there would be a chance that I could actually talk to her. Maybe I would be one of the ones lucky enough to ask her a question.
The first show was in New Jersey. I was a basket case all the way there. As I sat in the second row at the corner of the stage I thought I was going to pass out waiting for the curtain to go up. And then… finally, there she was! It was incredible. I just sat in awe. I hadn’t an ounce of courage to ask a single question. I just sat and soaked her in, trying to make eye contact anytime she glanced in my direction. It was a dream come true. The 90 minute show flew by before I knew it. I didn’t want to leave. I was actually in tears walking to my car. It was incredible.
One night between the first and second show I found myself in hotel room where the cable TV had gone out. I was about ready to settle down with a good book, when God made it clear to me He had other ideas. I suddenly felt a conviction in my spirit. He took me to His word and showed me some verses that sent me to my knees. I honestly don’t remember the exact verses, but He definitely got my attention. What He showed me was… I had not given Him this dream of meeting Carol. I may have thanked Him for the opportunity to see her. I may have asked for His protection during my trip. But as far as the dream of meeting Carol, I was keeping that for myself. I didn’t trust Him with it. I believed I would be disappointed if somehow He took that from the clutches of my hands. I needed to handle this one. It was too close to my heart… no one, not even Him knew how important this was to me.
Wow. It’s hard even now to admit those were my thoughts. Who knows my dreams better than the One who planted them in me? Who is more trustworthy than the One who gave up the life of His own Son to save mine? He was right. I was keeping Him from this most precious dream of mine. I somehow thought that I could handle it better than He could.
The next two shows were as wonderful as the first. I did work up the courage by the third show to raise my hand and ask Carol a question. She even called on me! But, when I stood to speak, an elderly gentleman in front of me, who had worked with Carol in her first Broadway musical, thought she was speaking to him and he spoke in my place. It just wasn’t meant to be. I can’t say I was disappointed because the experience of seeing her was spectacular. But spiritually I was spent.
It was that night that I went back to my hotel room and once again found myself on my knees. I broke down in a flood of tears. The wall that I had built up around Carol suddenly came tumbling down. It wasn’t just the dream of meeting Carol that I had kept from the Lord. Carol meant so much to me because her show had been one of the greatest and most consistent sources of joy in my young life. Seeing Carol every Saturday night was not just something I looked forward to every week, it was my escape. I not only wanted to be like her, I wanted to be her. For one hour a week I was transported into her world of humor, music and laughter and that’s where I wanted to stay. What the Lord whispered to my heart on the floor of that hotel room was… “I know. I was there. It was me who gave you joy through Carol every week.”
All these years…Carol was who I credited for that joy. Carol was the one I built up as my “savior.” It wasn’t her at all. She is still one of the funniest, most remarkably talented performers ever. My opinion of her will never change. But my perspective certainly has.
I had two biblical reminders of this experience just this week. In the book of Exodus, when Aaron makes the grumbling Israelites a golden calf to appease them in Moses’ absence, he does something odd. He builds an altar in front of the calf and says, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” (Ex. 32:5) In other words, here’s your idol, but tomorrow we’ll worship God in front of it. How does that work? Then in 1 Corinthians, Paul says to that church, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.” (10:21) The Corinthians were eating and drinking those things that have been sacrificed to idols. They didn’t necessarily believe in the idols, but they were on one hand participating in idol worship and in the next moment worshiping God. You can’t have both.
Idolatry can be so subtle sometimes. I may not have fashioned a gold statue of Carol Burnett and bowed down and worshiped it everyday. But I certainly had spent a lifetime giving her credit for something that God did in my life through her. And, I clung to it so desperately not wanting to give it over to Him. I trusted Him with most of my life, but I didn’t want to give Him what I had built up to be so precious. God showed me as He did the Israelites – we can’t have both.
As a post script to the Carol story… once I finally did give her over to the Lord and recognize Him as the source of all of my joy, my heart for Carol changed. It wasn’t about me meeting her anymore. I wanted to be able to give back to her. The most prized possession I had, the only thing of any value I could ever give her was my faith in Jesus Christ. So in the years that followed that trip I began to pray for her salvation. Then last April the Lord provided me a gift beyond all gifts… the chance to meet Carol face to face. She was doing a book signing in L.A. I actually got to meet her, speak to her and give her a birthday gift. The card I gave her was meant to encourage her to know Him more. I can’t say that I witnessed to her in those few seconds we spoke. But hopefully He touched her through me just as He touched me through her for so many Saturday nights. I may never know until I get to heaven whether or not she ever recognized the voice of her Shepherd. (I’m still praying!) But I do know, that when I relinquished my “idol,” He gave me my dream. I’m not saying that He will always do that for us. But, I sure can say He knew my heart and chose to bless me with a real dream come true.
And I was… “so glad we had that time together.”
Lord, continue to show me the areas of my life where I put my idols next to you and try to worship both. I want you alone to be my God. Help me to fully surrender all that I hold back from you. Thank you for knowing me. Thank you for loving me through the giftedness of others. Help me never to mistake them for you. And use me to touch others with your love.