But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them, even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf ... Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert ... You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. Nehemiah 9:17b-20
Sometimes I can see my story written on the pages of Scripture.
I too turned from God and chose to worship things of this world.
In fact, I vividly remember standing in my driveway and arguing with God (arguing may not be an accurate verb because I was doing all of the talking). I boldly told Him not to expect me to go into the mission field. I told Him that my "idols" meant to much to me to abandon. I even named them - they were lifestyle choices, material possessions (don't ask me to name them for you - way too embarrassing - and you may worship some of the same ones).
God had every right to walk away from me and abandon me to my idolatry (in fact, He had every reason to send a bolt of lightning and zap me on the spot).
But (I love that word when God is involved) He did not strike me down with His wrath. Nor did He abandon me. Instead, God showered me with His great compassion and grace. And He gently began molding my heart and revealing His heart for me. His kindness led me to repentance. His grace revealed what my true desires were.
All those idols were eventually cast aside - every single one - and God's provision never failed. God did not strip away those hideous idols away from me overnight but He led me to a place of joyfully giving them up. Once they were gone, that of greater value became obvious.
And so I praise you, God. "Blessed by your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the LORD." (Nehemiah 5b-6a)
PS. That was over 30 mission trips ago!