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.
Some title, right?
But it’s true. I love watching people, pop culture, and things, and it makes no sense but many times that is the biggest way God speaks to me. He can give me the most mundane thing and show me His perspective with it, and then I usually tell you about it.
Today is a lot like that.
I remember watching the extras on the Freaky Friday DVD, the version Lindsay Lohan starred in. Someone called out to her and basically said that after the movie wrapped, she’d never deal with the crew again or anyone because the world was her oyster. He felt she’d move on to bigger and better things, and forget anyone who came before that time. (I’m paraphrasing). She denied it.
Not long after, I remember her winning awards and being called the Next It Girl, and future superstar. Circa 2004-5, she could do no wrong. She was on top of the world.
In 2011, she was a late night punchline. No positive awards came her way, and in fact many wrote her off for good. Superstar? Hardly. Those days were long gone.
It’s an odd parallel and maybe you can’t make the leap, but the Christmas tree is much the same. Come November they are treasured and adored, and I’m the worst offender of them all. Although we have an artificial tree, I want the smell. I love to decorate. The tree for 4-6 weeks is the focal point of our home. We hang hand-crafted and store bought treasures on the beloved branches.
Just like that, it’s January.
The trees are on the curb, naked and forgotten. In our case, dismantled, back in the box, and relegated to the garage.
Is that any way to live?
I don’t think it matters what your daily life is about. For me, I write, and it’s a tough business. My husband is a programmer. Loved ones are teachers, soldiers, and parts of every walk of life. If any of us, with what we do, rely on what the world thinks about our work and choices, well, look forward to the cheers to jeers life of a Christmas tree.
I know, Lindsay created a lot of the jeers she receives. Still, Google her name for 2005. It’s full of accolades and awards. It was her November season for a Christmas tree. Adored. Loved.
January Christmas tree parallel? A has-been. Discarded.
Last month I won a contest, my first. What is neat about what I do is how subjective it all is. I’ve had the same work receive raving reviews, and awful criticism. I decided in 2007 when I made the commitment to write that I would write for God. If I relied on what the world thinks of me, and for a long time I ate, drank, slept and breathed those thoughts, then I’d be in for a lot of hurt. Trust me.
To Him, I’m forever the Christmas tree in November. I can do the best work of my life, as Lindsay of 2005, or, fall flat on my face with my choices. He loves me either way. He also loves me enough to put some consequences in my life when my choices are sin. But love me, He does.
Just like He loves you.
This post feels random, but there’s someone out there who needs to know that title, promotion, role they rely on for their identity is going to fail them, or, the world that right now is lifting you up will throw you back down and walk away. Don’t define yourself by what you do, define yourself by who you are.
God’s beloved. His child. Loved.
And by knowing who you are in Christ, you’ll twinkle brighter than the decorations on a Christmas tree.
Even in January.