My Secret Sin, That God Broke My Ankle Over
Many years ago I had a secret sin... well at least I thought it was a secret one. However, years later I discovered my wife knew, and many of my closest friends too, yet they never mentioned it to me once.
When I found out about this I was very sad, because they said that they never told me about my sin, because they reckoned “Even if we had told you, it would have made no difference whatsoever, you would not have changed”. Worse still, one or two said “You were so harsh and critical of anyone questioning what you did then that we were afraid to tell you anyway.”
Now that really did make me sad.
So today, I’m sharing this secret sin out in the open in the hope that you never have to suffer so foolishly in the same way I did. In the famous words of Scotland’s national poet Rabbie Burns “Oh, that God would give us eyes to see ourselves as others see us!”
That you see, is the essence of our human condition… our blindness. So often we are blind to our wrong actions and attitudes, plus astoundingly blind to the pain and misery they afflict on those closest to us.
We willingly persist in things that slowly destroy us and those around us because we cannot or just plain refuse to see the truth. Therefore we are also powerless to stop what is so damaging. Our life gets slowly poisoned from within and we don’t even know why.
We are defeated before our enemies, just as Achan’s hidden sin caused the defeat of Israel. (Joshua 7:1-26)
So what was this sin of mine?
Well, funnily enough you don’t hear it preached about in many Churches (at least hear in the West that is) these days.
It is the sin of idolatry.
Ezekiel sums it up perfectly like this…
“Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts and have put right before their faces the stumbling block of their iniquity. Should I be consulted by them at all?“
Therefore speak to them and tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Any man of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the LORD will be brought to give him an answer in the matter in view of the multitude of his idols, in order to lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel who are estranged from Me through all their idols.”‘
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Repent and turn away from your idols and turn your faces away from all your abominations.”
“For anyone of the house of Israel or of the immigrants who stay in Israel who separates himself from Me, sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity, and then comes to the prophet to inquire of Me for himself, I the LORD will be brought to answer him in My own person.
“I will set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from among My people. So you will know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 14 v3-8 NKJV)
Sounds serious eh?
You bet, serious enough for God to break my ankle in fact in my case… because of an idol in my heart.
My own idolatry developed into such a grave issue that God’s anger burned fiercely against me in a way I had never experienced before and never wish to do so again.
Interestingly perhaps, the time that this sin of idolatry weaved it’s wretched spell over my heart most strongly was when I was attending Bible College. Outwardly, to all extents and purposes I was one of the most earnest, passionate and forthright of those that were being prepared to spend their lives for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the titanic war over lost souls.
Inwardly in my heart a secret idol had sneaked in ever so quietly and ended up virtually consuming all my waking thoughts. It stole my energy and passion away from Jesus, though it loved cloaking itself with ideas that somehow God would use me if only I would become a brilliant guitar player, yet the harder I tried the worse I seemed to play!
And there you have it.
You see I ended up with GUITARS AS AN IDOL at the centre of my heart.
Yep, I know it sounds stupid.
But it’s true.
Now if you’ve read one of my other articles, “How to Pray and Get the Guitar You Want in 20 Minutes”, you’ll know that some years before I’d started out on guitar well. In fact, there was no doubt at all in my mind, that God had set me on this course and inspired me to play guitar in worship for His glory.
Sadly, after a few years and twisted heart motives things got messy.
Silently I was lured into loving something else even more than I loved Jesus.
I’d lost my first love.
Still went to Bible College classes.
Still I prayed.
Still I spoke about Jesus.
But something was dreadfully wrong. I could feel it day and night. I felt weird, uneasy.
I just could not stop buying Guitar magazines each month and literally drooling over different types of guitars like Gibsons or Fenders and various types of amps. I began to feel terribly convicted by God about it, yet couldn’t stop buying them month after month, no matter how many times I told the Lord I wouldn’t do so again.
And He told me not to!
To prove (to my absolute shame) how bad it got while at Bible College let me illustrate…
One day our washing machine broke completely. That very day I went on a trip to Edinburgh with my son to have a “look around”. We lived in Berwick Upon Tweed at the time and attended Bible College there. When I say we went to Edinburgh to “Have a look around” that was code for “Go to the guitar shops on a window shopping trip”.
Sadly though, it did not just turn out to be window shopping on this occasion.
I saw the most amazing shiny red Fender guitar in a shop window, asked to try it out “Just to see” and of course ended up buying it with just about the last £170.00 we had to our name as poor Bible College students.
All the way home I justified it to my son, yet something must have warned me that things were likely to get sticky upon my return to my beloved wife, so I thought it best to get her a little gift.
I went into a local bric a brac shop in Berwick, and there for the princely sum of £15.00 I bought my wife a… mangle!
That’s right I thought; “What does she need washing machine for now she has this!”
And of course it meant I could keep the awesome Fender guitar tucked under my arm.
In the interests of all those concerned I feel it wise to draw a veil over what passed between the love of my life and I when I crossed the family threshold that night. Suffice to say that it was not pretty.
The next week though was hellish.
As if it were not enough to be out of sorts with my wife so badly, the Lord was on my case as well, yet worst of all…every time I tried to play the shiny red Fender, I felt sick, and it sounded terrible. Misery, woe and empty purse strings surrounded us and the thought of it all still stings me to this day.
Yet, God is gracious.
Thankfully, one dear friend intervened and persuaded me to allow him to return the guitar to the shop in Edinburgh on my behalf, saying he’d beg the shop keeper to give me the money back. Wonder of wonders, he got the money back, which could well be a large contributing factor as to why our marriage kept going after the sorry affair!
I must admit though, using that mangle to wash clothes was a brutal thing.
I couldn’t even turn the handle properly when a sheet was in it!
My wife was the only one in the family who could get the blessed thing to work!
Now if you thought I would learn my lesson after such a wretched tale, well sadly no!
A full three years after I’d left Bible College I still lusted after guitars in my heart, and in fact this may have been one reason, why after only a couple of years working in the Church I found myself back in Scotland working in a sales job selling shoes in Edinburgh.
You see, if Satan can insert something into the centre of your heart that you secretly value more than Jesus, there is no telling how far you may stray from where God really wants you.
He’ll get you as far away from God’s BIG Plan as he possibly can.
Thing is, I still could not stop buying those stupid guitar magazines, though I had a very clear sense of God’s disapproval getting stronger, almost by the day now. I had a strange feeling that somehow time was running out for me to change, to get rid of these idols and obey Him.
The axe fell.
I went to play five a side football in the pouring rain with the guys at work on an Astro-turf pitch and was having a fabulous game. I even scored a hat trick including the winning goal in the last two minutes of the match as we fought back to win 3/2 from being two nil down in the first half.
I was on cloud nine thinking “It doesn’t get much better than this!” when suddenly a long high ball dropped rifle like toward me in the pouring rain. I trapped it with my right foot and instinctively spun goal-wards to take a shot, yet in that split second I heard a crack that seemed as loud as a pistol shot.
The ball had spun in such a powerful way because of the Astro-turf that when I’d placed my foot on it, my ankle had been whipped down under the ball so violently that my ankle snapped instantly. I’d never felt pain like it, and was stretchered way to accident and emergency.
Next morning worse was to come…
As I awoke it seemed as though the whole of the bedroom was filled with the almost tangible presence of God. Normally this is a glorious, wonderful thing to be celebrated, yet today it was the complete opposite.
I was terrified.
I could literally feel the pure, white hot anger of God blazing against me.
The whole room was filled with an almost visible cloud of wrath.
I knew He was angry, so in a trembling voice I asked why…
In an instant God revealed why His wrath had been kindled against me.
Suddenly I saw all the Guitar magazines, flash before me, all the money I’d wasted on guitars I could not afford, all the suffering my family endured as they went without to indulge my whimsies and stupid obsession, all the energy and dedication I’d poured into something that was simply a lump of wood with strings.
Boy oh boy, was I in trouble.
There and then I cried to God for mercy, and asked for His forgiveness.
I’m certain of one thing, as soon as I’d prayed He was willing to forgive, because believe me, if I hadn’t done it before, this time I was praying and repenting with every fibre of my being.
GOD'S anger with me did not dissipate for THREE WHOLE DAYS.
Now I’m not holding out on any finer points of theology here, yet I’m telling you straight that God’s anger did not leave that room for a full THREE DAYS.
He was still angry with me despite me pleading for forgiveness.
Truly the writer to the Hebrews states…
"Our God is a consuming FIRE." (Hebrews 12: 29).
Only on the fourth morning did I have sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit being with me WITHOUT anger. Even then it wasn’t exactly ‘cosy’.
To be sure the scriptures rightly say that… “God is slow to anger”(Psalm 85 v16) but I’m telling you this, if His anger ever arouses against you, then look out, you better fall on your face and get right fast.
I was off work for a full eight weeks, and God dealt with my heart deeply through that period.
It was intense, painful and I had nowhere to hide, but it had to be done.
Truth is I’d strayed so far in my heart from Jesus being my absolute passion that God had to institute some radical surgery to get my attention, and allow the fear of the Lord to so grip me afresh that I got suddenly got wisdom (Proverbs 9 v 10).
Now as I say, whether you feel your theology prevents you from believing that God would break a man’s ankle to get his attention or not does not concern me.
What I want you to know is that God is looking at what is in your HEART RIGHT NOW and if you truly want to know his pathway to blessing, you’d best be sure that if there is anything there that he puts His finger on and asks you to deal with, you had best sort it out before it gets as bad as the guitar saga did with me.
There is a good ending though.
When once I’d truly repented, and God had dealt with me, within a few years I found myself playing guitar in worship in the right way before God, though I can’t help thinking how many years of joy I have lost because let things get so badly out of balance.
Today, once more the beautiful presence of Jesus is with me when I sing and play, and people are caught up with Him and Him alone. No they don’t speak about how great Dave is at playing his guitar or leading worship… instead they are too busy worshipping Jesus and enjoying His wonderful presence in the meetings… which is really good for my ego.