November 3, 2014

Looking for Love

Last week at Allume, Shauna Niequist said something that stuck in my mind. She said, "What we long for is to be loved, but we'll settle for being impressive."

Truth smack - right in the face.

And you know what? It's true.

I've always struggled with the desire to impress. I've longed to do things perfectly, to be the "best" in whatever endeavor I've entered into. Trust me, this is not a great way to live your life.

In my mind, I equated being impressive with being valued. If you're the best at something, doesn't that make you worthy of admiration?

If I truly, deep down to the soles of my feet, believe that I am loved for who I am and not what I can do, all of the worry, the stress, the fear of failure, the desperation for approval can cease. 

Do you believe that?

Maybe your own personal life experiences have taught you differently. Perhaps there have been voices along the way that sent you a different message: In order for me to love you, you must meet my expectations. In order for me to accept you, you must impress me with ________ (your appearance, your income, your talents, what you can offer me, etc.).

Can I tell you a hard truth? It's one that I've learned over the last three decades:

You will never make everyone happy. Despite your best efforts, you will never be perfect. It is absolutely impossible. Sure, you can impress in an area for a season, but if your self-worth and value is dependent on the approval of another human being, you are in for a roller coaster of insecurity. Why? Because people will let you down. You will let them down. It's the nature of humanity.

So. What do we do then? How do we break this cycle of attention seeking? How do we redirect this desire to impress and exchange it for secure love?

We look to the source of Love. We look to the one who loved us when we were so totally opposed to Him. We turn to the one who loved us first, before we could do a single thing to earn his approval.

Maybe that's not the God you've heard preached from the pulpit. Perhaps you've been told that you have to earn His love too.

You don't. He loves you because you are His.

I remember the first time the nurse placed my son onto my chest. He was a mess. He was unbathed, squirming, crying with flailing arms. He could offer me nothing but his own needs. And I loved him. Wholly and completely. Not because of what he could offer me (in fact, loving him would cost me quite a lot), but because he was mine. He carried my image. I bore him in my body. I suffered pain for him, and he was worth it.

I think you can see where I'm going here.

God loves you, not because you deserve his love, but because He chose to love you first. He chose to love not because of what you could offer Him, but because of what He can offer you. True love. Unconditional love. Love based not on merit, but on choice. He chose love.

When I let that type of love sink down into my bones it gives me peace. It gives me the freedom to do my best without the pressure to perform. It allows me to offer my service as an offering and not as a down-payment on a debt I could never repay. It liberates me from the need to impress anyone else but Him.

I've found that I have to examine my motivations for doing things. Am I participating in this activity, this act of service, this social organization to appear impressive to others? When I get down to the deep core of my being, am I doing this to be noticed? Would I continue to do this task if no one else ever knew I was the one doing it? Am I doing things to draw attention to Him or to draw attention to myself?

Do the words I write (or the things I post on social media) make others feel better about themselves, or feel better about me? 

Do I value the opinions of those I love? Sure, I do. Do I let their opinions determine my worth? I try not to. I still struggle. I still want people to like me. I like the affirmation that I'm doing well in my endeavors (and I think it's good to encourage and affirm the gifts we see in others), but I'm trying to be intentional about keeping those desires in check.

I'm learning how to rest in His love.

 I love the lyrics from an old hymn written in 1882 by George Matheson:

O Love that wilt not let me go,

I rest my weary soul in thee;

I give thee back the life I owe,

That in thine ocean depths its flow

May richer, fuller be.

Will you take a few moments and rest in His love today? 


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