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We Become What We Worship

Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “What we are worshiping we are becoming.” In other words, our deities shape our identities. Let us call this Emerson’s Law and consider it in the lives of two men:

The evolutionary scientist Charles Darwin once wrote in his autobiography:

“My chief enjoyment and sole employment throughout life has been scientific work." From this work, he added, "I am never idle," as it is "the only thing which makes life endurable to me.” What effect did devoting himself to scientific work have on the person Darwin became?

Up to the age of thirty poetry … gave me great pleasure, and … I took intense de­light in Shakespeare. … But now for many years I found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me … My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts. (This) loss is a loss of happiness … (I became) “a withered leaf for every subject except Science" (which he saw as "a great evil”).

Now consider Emerson's Law at work in the life of another influential genius, theologian Jonathan Edwards.

At age 19, Edwards wrote, “Resolved ... to cast my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him.” Later in his life Edwards reflected on how his object of worship affected his soul over the years: "[It] brought an inexpressible purity, brightness, peacefulness and ravishment to the soul. In other words, it made the soul like a field or garden.”

Two gifted men. One became “a withered leaf” and the other a “garden.” The object of their ultimate devotion shaped the very different kind of men these two became.

Thaddeus J. Williams, Becoming Yourself by Mirroring the Greatest Person in History, (Weaver Book Company, 2017), Introduction

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