This is something I wrote yesterday for a Human Development class assignment on transitional objects. Don’t worry, if you don’t know what that is, my first sentence describes it. Please feel free to comment or question. As always.
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A transitional object is something that “holds the place of” something or someone an individual holds dear, and while that person is gone the transitional object provides the comfort of the missing thing/person for the individual possessing the object.
I think there is a continuum when we are looking at these three things: idols of the heart, transitional objects, and Jesus. Idols of the heart will always harm, Jesus will always heal, and transitional objects will precariously vacillate in between the two extremes. Both Jesus and idols are calling out to our hearts with varying levels of attraction and magnetism at different times. The difference is that idols of the heart sing a Siren song, like from the story Ulysses. This song, which often sounds more beautiful than any others to me, will lure me only to dash me on the rocks.
I think there is a fine line between idols of the heart and transitional objects, and whenever there is a fine line present in our lives PLUS a desire for obedience to God, it requires diligence and watchfulness. Similar to my Siren song reference, Lou Going says in his JBC article, “Our idols will seek or worship again and again. So we must flee to Jesus again and again” (52). I use this Ulysses reference because it is one of my favorite stories due to its strong analogous relationship to every person’s journey toward God. One of my favorite musicians, Josh Garrels, has a spectacular song about this story (aptly called “Ulysses”). One of the final lines draws on Ulysses’s visceral fight between two loves, two desires; it says, “So tie me to the mast of this old ship and point me home / before I lose the one I love, before my chance is gone.”
I know that only some of you know my story, but my transitional objects did become idols of my heart. They won by default because I chose not to battle them. But as of three years ago when I began doing war with them, and for the last year Jesus has won. On the harder days, I know that tying myself to mast of the ship is my only hope. Internalizing the safety of Jesus (via the Holy Spirit) as we should is our only hope. We talked about John 14:16 in class on Monday and how Jesus is potentially describing the Spirit as a transitional object. John 14:20 is what I often turn to, which says, “You will know [because of the Spirit] that I am in my Father and you are in me and I am in you.”
The Spirit is an amazing, often grossly under-appreciated gift. At our disposal is this internal Counselor and Advocate that, even when the “attachment object” (Jesus) is gone, offers us the comfort and security of Jesus’s fleshly presence. If we can believe this and tie ourselves to the mast of this ship, we can have a confidence in Him even though we have never seen Him.