What BIID says about worship…, and us

Worship changes the worshiper into the image of the One worshiped.  Jack Hayford’s right whether a person worships Jesus Christ, financial independence, a child, or land-o-lakes butter.  As BIID portrays with disturbing clarity.
“When I see an amputee—when I imagine the amputee—there is this inner pull that says, ‘Why can’t I be like that?’”  Hiding behind a pseudonym, “John” explains that after 47 years of marriage and now in his senior years, he wants to be able to fulfill his lifelong dream of being an amputee.  He insists he’s not crazy for wanting to give up a leg.  Each of the several psychiatrists he’s seen have all declared him sane.  He finally outed himself to his wife 5 years ago.  Though she’s not on board yet, she’s agreed to let him have his way–as long as it’s done safely.  Finding a cooperative doctor may be difficult since the medical community has condemned the practice of removing healthy limbs simply to satisfy some longing.

BIID stands for Body Identity Integrity Disorder.  Most people so labelled point back to an incident or two in childhood or adolescence that was formative.  Dr. Michael First, professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University in NY, has been studying BIID for 13 years.  He says others simply explain, “As long as I can remember, I’ve felt like my leg shouldn’t be here”.
I remember being stunned when a woman confided in me that she wished she could get cancer.  Bewildered, I thought of all the people I’ve known with cancer–some of whom I buried.  Except for the attention and sympathy it might spark, I was at a loss to make sense of her craving.  Hearing John’s interview I can’t help but think of the many amputees in certain war-torn African countries; civilians torn apart by mines who would give almost anything to regain the leg or arm they lost.
There are practical questions anyone who cares about John and his wife, might ask.  Who will pay for John’s craving?  What if things go badly during surgery and John’s wife is left a widow?  What if complications require more surgeries and in the end John loses much more than a leg?  Does any of that matter to John as much as getting what he wants, what he craves, what he worships?
Then again, should we just dismiss anybody who has a desire we don’t have as “You’re nuts!”?  People with families work 75-hour weeks in the hopes of being able to afford that vacation home.  A neglected wife cheats on her husband in hopes of making him jealous and want her again.  A teenage baseball player has no time for worship or a mission trip or youth group because he’s playing fall ball, summer ball, and all kinds of leagues between the school season in hopes of landing a D-I scholarship.  A politician sells his integrity to his party or the biggest campaign donor.  A woman’s world stands or falls by the encouragements and criticisms of others.  Are these people all crazy or just some of them?  Is worshiping certain things normal while worshiping others is not?Wanting something badly is home territory to each of us but whether cravings are illegal, bizarre, foolish or normal, it’s all worship.  Everyone worships either the Lord God, or substitutes; idols, the Bible calls them.  Tim Keller defines an idol as “…anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give” (Counterfeit Gods, xvii). 

What do you want so much that if you could trade God for it, you would?  I’ve had frustrated wives tell me they just want a white knight for a husband (some guy other than the one who gave her a ring).  People consumed with self-loathing fish constantly for compliments and adoration with their tales of woe.  Other people want things that are blessings from the hand of God: a spouse, a person’s friendship, healing, a certain job, a child, or enough money to pay the bills.  But God is unwilling to compete with his blessings for our worship.
John believes that having his leg amputated would finally allow him to move on with his life.  “People keep saying you got to be awfully darn sure because there’s no going back.  What I realized, well, maybe a half a year ago, is that if I keep putting it off, there’s no going forward.”
Dr. First says of those with BIID, “There’s a huge amount of suffering.  The people I’ve interviewed with this condition suffer tremendously with this. They spend so much time thinking about it, they’re preoccupied, their life is unsettled, and after they get the surgery, they appear to be perfectly normal again.” Suffering (because I can’t have something), spend so much time thinking about it, preoccupied, unsettled life (without it)…, this is the language of worship.  And John, if you have your leg taken off, you can be the poster child for Pastor Hayford’s insight: If you worship an amputee, you will indeed become the image of what you worshiped.  Little children, keep yourself from idols.  (1 John 5:21)

3 thoughts on “What BIID says about worship…, and us”

  1. I know I have idols. I think about that last statement. If I worship a vacation or people who have more than me, what am I? I become what I worship. Maybe it’s materialism. That returning nag of “I want more, better”-I’m the one with too much. I’m the one causing those with less to want more. While I may be envious of people who have more-or what seems like a lot-I am them if that is all I desire.

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  2. But where does it end? Does this mean that if you *do* have cancer you should just lie there and pray because to use chemo and surgery is to worship health?

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    1. Hmm, hadn’t thought of that. I can see the parallels, but there are differences too: cancer is an assault against one’s body that if ignored leads to death. BIID contains no such lethal threat. It’s a thinking distortion. In fact, the threats surface IF John has his desired surgery: financial costs (which others may have to shoulder if he uses insurance?), infection,additional care by others–especially as he ages.

      Here’s the idol worship I see in this: if our bodies are gifts from God, then to harm the body (when there is no greater threat such as gangrene or other infection) is to despise God’s gift. And since false worship is to think more highly of something then God, it seems to me that BIID fits the category.

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