This year my goal is to share surrender stories, encouragement from myself and others that will encourage you to surrender the good, the bad, and—maybe one day—the chocolate. Last week Sarah Hamaker shared her story about parenting expectations. Alexis A. Goring let us in on her journey about surrendering refined sugar.
My story is about letting go of people pleasing and approval.
For those that know me now, they can’t believe I’d waste much time on such a thing. Peers find me God confident and secure in who God says I am. Trust me, that wasn’t always the case.
I was a hurting person growing up and took offenses, even slight ones that weren’t even intentional, to my core. I nursed them, fed them, and sewed them into my heart. By the time I was in my mid/late twenties and starting married life, approval had a grip on me.
What my husband thought of me kept me busy day and night. Choices he made I zeroed in and was certain was because of me. I can’t tell you how many of our early conflicts had the words, “This isn’t about you.” I couldn’t believe it. And I was imagining so many disappointments he had about me that I conjured up real conflict.
I did the same with colleagues and clients. I wanted to be the best and felt I was only good at what I did when I saw the organization or may name in bold newspaper print. Well, not every task is going to make the news. I exhausted myself wanting the approval.
The object lesson that I share with ladies I speak with is the loudest example to me about how sick I was when it came to needing approval and caring what people thought of me. I am so NOT a crafty person. But years and years ago for Christmas dinner at the in-laws I was chiseling an eggplant into a penguin centerpiece. If Pinterest existed back then I would have scoured the site looking for something I could bring that would make me feel worthy enough to be there. I was up into early morning getting this eggplant centerpiece ready. By the time I got there, I was too tired to be social. No one cared about the penguin. These people just wanted to see ME.
But back then, I still didn’t see it, and surrendering it was a process.
Here’s what God did in me.
I went to a couple retreats where prayer was intensive and I took steps of faith to share my story and allow others to pray. The results were powerful. God showed up and I felt for the first time how deeply Jesus loved me. He started to re wire my mind.
Then, I read. I’m an avid reader and I’m not afraid of a tough Bible study. I journeyed through Beth Moore’s Believing God and a few years later, Stasi Eldredge’s Captivating. Both these books were tools in God’s arsenal to set me free.
This healing in my life paved the way for me to write. There was no way I could have pursued writing for the public the way I was, and sadly I see too many authors with this approval/what others think burden and it is exhausting for them and frustrating for those in their circles. It would have emotionally snuffed me out had I not sought healing. And in His mercy and humor, I did receive a negative review with Entrusted. The person was kind but they didn’t like the book. They even admitted the hardest part was they hit purchase twice, so they were stuck with two copies they didn’t want.
Not long ago that review would have sent me to bed and I would have kept it churning in my mind for months. Today? I smiled. Not because I’m mocking the reviewer, but I’m so thankful for what the Lord has done in me.
And my friend, He longs to do the same for you.
To say I had a low self-esteem as a young adult would be an understatement. I didn’t feel worthy of love for a few reasons, and would complain when I observed what I thought were high-maintenance girlfriends demanding flowers and chocolates from my friends, their boyfriends. I thought so little of myself I remember uttering that “if he wasn’t hitting me, that would be gift enough for Valentine’s Day.”
When my husband came on the scene, he showered me with gifts, and I struggled. In my mind, he was going to learn who I really was, and that I wasn’t worth loving, and he’d be goe. To me, he needed to save his money and time. But he was stubborn and full of faith, letting me know that the Holy Spirit showed him we had a future, and a good one. I didn’t run, but I didn’t allow myself to enjoy the romantic beauty of the relationship. I was so practical and afraid of enjoying anything of worth I didn’t even want to shop for diamond rings.
Again, my husband to be insisted, but it was a battle of wills within the store. Every ring the poor employee brought out was to me a car payment. Or two. Or ten. All true, but deep down there was something else going on within my rejections. I didn’t feel worthy of such beauty.
I chose the smallest diamond I could find, and a small, simple wedding band.
I wore them for 15 years, through good and bad, thick and thin. Literally.
But last year I needed a surgery where the rings had to come off. I was in a thick season where I’d gained weight and it took an hour and half a bottle of Windex to get those things off. The surgery didn’t last as long. When it came time to put them back on, I couldn’t. My finger was so swollen it wasn’t worth it. So I left my hand bare.
My husband knew of a place where ring re sizing that was inexpensive and did a great job, but he couldn’t remember the exact place. When I called around, the places were not inexpensive. The rings sat.
I lost some weight, but the thought of putting the rings on hurt my knuckle thinking about it. When I thought about it, my mind dreamed about a new ring. After all, I was as different on the inside as I was on the outside. Most of all, God changed and healed me. I realized, like every woman on Earth, I was worthy.
And I felt one day I’d have a ring to reflect His love for me.
In January my husband and I went on a cruise to celebrate our belated anniversary. While browsing the ship’s store, I noticed a jewelry sale. He encouraged me to take a look. The rings were sparkly and big, most too showy for me.
But one stood out. Every time light hit the yellow topaz, beautiful colors showed off the angles. Not long ago someone prayed with me and let me know that was how God saw me. A source of His light. Lots of color. My presence, because of Christ, would light dark places. I believe that prayer, and that ring got a hold of me. To add, the diamonds totaled 14. The main gem made a total of 15. Seemed a great gift for the 15th anniversary.
This is now my wedding ring. It’s not traditional but it is a perfect reminder of how far our marriage has come, how much God has done through both of us. I love this ring. I finally feel worthy to wear something bigger and sparkly. I am a woman, and I’m God’s masterpiece. This is God’s definition for all females. We are all worthy to Him. All. Even you!
But wait, God wasn’t done. A month later I participated in a study called the Esther experience. One of the meetings took us through Esther’s wedding. As a token to remember the event and the significance for us as God’s daughters, we received a simple silver band. It’s as basic as you can get where the ends aren’t even together. I can re-size that band all on my own, thank you. I’m just as worthy to wear that mass band all of us received that night as the one on the cruise ship.
To celebrate the journey, this is what I do: wear the gold wedding ring on my left, and the simple silver band on my right. The left represents how God views me and that this was a gift from my husband. The right represents how simple His love is, yet how deep. My right hand is my dominant hand, so when I wear it, I remember Jesus is my everything.
I have a feeling someone is reading this who feels like junk and has maybe even uttered something like I did years ago that as long as I’m not getting hit by a man, that’s enough. I’m not saying demand gifts and prizes all the time, but please realize you have worth. When you were created God chose you last not because you were an afterthought, but because He wanted to show you off.
You are a masterpiece.
You are a gem.