There are moments in my life when I feel I must have something more important than God in order to be happy; more important than his grace and favor: the approval of man. With Fathers Day fast approaching I find myself cringing just a bit. I don’t celebrate Father’s Day for reasons too broad to get into here. However, as I’ve gotten older I see more and more how parents shape us, whether it is through their presence (positive or negative) or absence in our lives. My childhood experiences influence how I see God and the ways I can seek affirmation. I’ve learned that I can easily seek affirmation and approval in the form of words.
Zechariah 8:2,7 “ This is what the LORD Almighty says: "I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.[…] 7 This is what the LORD Almighty says: "I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west.”
It’s ironic that I can so easily run to people who are fallible and away from an all-loving God for my self worth. The bible says that God is jealous for me. Jealousy is a sign of possession. He desires my entire heart, as he is fully trustworthy of it. He wants to save and restore me, heal me from the past. He is the only one able to do so. Yet, I can set up my idol in the form of man and chase, even demand man’s approval to feel significant. When I do this I reveal my real god versus the God I profess. What I look to in order to justify myself exposes where I seek my redemption. It is not always at the foot of the cross.
Dt32:21 (NIV) “They made me jealous by what is no god and angered me with their worthless idols.[…]”
Timothy Keller wrote that idols could be found at the bottom of our most painful emotions, emotions that can sometimes drive us to do what we know is wrong. For me, those emotions are rooted in childhood rejections. Sometimes I want to leave an impression so much that if the person rejects me or God, or both, I can feel like it is because I did not love, give, or set a good enough example. In these moments I place people’s response, and their approval over Christ in my life.
We all have rival gods hidden inside; it’s a question of what I do about mine. I know what my love language is. It is up to me to be careful who I allow to speak that language to me. I can see which way I am swaying when I pay closer attention to what occupies my thoughts in my free time. I can see it when I am aware of what I daydream about. Sometimes it’s praise from a person or attention from a man, other times it’s career and what my next step or opportunity might be. What is it for you? I am not saying I cannot think about these things, but when I dwell on them to the point where I need them to define me or make me feel significant, I know I have crossed the line.
“Your religion is what you do with your solitude.” – Archbishop William Temple
I saw this recently when I put too much stock in how someone else viewed me. It made me weird; it crippled my communication with the person. I allowed myself to become increasingly insecure based on what they did or did not say or do. I began to look to them to fill all my free time and then became resentful of always doing what they wanted to do. I wanted to be considered yet I kept beating them to the punch out of fear I would not be. I had to step back and reclaim who I let define me. When I did this it restored balance to the friendship and allowed me to give more without expectations because I no longer needed that person to affirm me. I turned back to God for affirmation, enabling me to give within my boundaries and respectful of theirs.
I have great guy friends. Some are believers and some who are not; I know I need to be carful not to excessively look for affirmation from them so as not to get too emotionally attached. It’s about setting healthy boundaries around my heart in order to be able to love and give in a healthy way without turning to others to fill a void or heal a hurt that God desires to fill and heal.
To fight my idols I must seek a deeper understanding of the love of Christ. I must strive to get to a place where I serve God not for what I am going to get from him but for who he is. I am not my past, my accomplishments or my ambitions; I have been redeemed and justified by grace.
Ephesians 3:16-20 (NIV) “16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,”
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