I remember thinking that if Good Housekeepingendorses a product, it must be good. Their seal of approval carried a lot of weight in my mind.
Last night, a circle of young twenties women gathered in our living room for Bible study. We’re going through Jennie Allen’s Stuck, taking a serious look at what keeps us from living the full lives God wants for us. This week’s topic was fear.
What scares us most? Not getting what we think we want and need?
As we talked, some common themes emerged. There were concerns about the welfare of loved ones and money. And there were lots of concerns about approval.
Approval of others. Will any man love me enough to marry me and stay with me forever? What will people think of me? We want to be liked. We want to be loved.
We all agreed that we are intensely social creatures, intensely desirous of relationship. And it’s not just any relationship we want. We want relationships with people who really know us—the good, the bad, the ugly—and really love us as a total package.
How we twist and turn ourselves, seeking the love and approval of others—as if it’s the air we breathe and need to survive. And since people are fickle with changing tastes, how can we be constant over time? How can we be who we really are, flaws and all, and find that approval we all seem to so desperately need?
We find ourselves saying things we don’t believe. We find ourselves doing things we despise. We find ourselves staying silent instead of speaking truth. All for approval. All because of fear. Fear ties us up in knots on the inside.
But we practiced last night. We practiced saying things vulnerable—revealing our weak spots—our fear places. There was something soothing and relieving in hearing that we all want the same thing.
Could it be we all want approval because we all were made to need it?
Could it be that seeking approval isn’t a shameful thing at all but that the shame comes from turning ourselves inside out, forfeiting who we really are, to get approval that comes with a price.
Do this, and you’ll be approved. Think that, and you’ll be approved. Look like this, and you’ll be approved. Have this, and you’ll be approved.
Exhausting. This spinning sphere of judgments slices us deep and cause our slashed souls to withdraw into dark recesses where we let no one really see us anymore.
How can we ever be seen, really? How can we come out of hiding and let our fragile souls know it’s safe?
We have to deal with anxiety.
Either carry it with us into our hiding places or bring it out into the light. Only in the light can our fears be melted. Only with the safe can worries be soothed.
But we know much about human judgment, don’t we? We know that many just cannot be trusted. Sweet lips lie through insincere smiles. Dark thoughts roam, comparing and cutting.
What do we have to do—who do we have to be—who do we need to become—to get the seal of approval we seek?
Wrong questions. They’re all future tense. They’re all performance based.
Truth is—we’re already approved. We’re already loved as much as anyone can be loved. We’re already safe. The deepest, darkest, ugliest parts of ourselves are already known and we’re already fully loved and safe. And we didn’t have to change first or pay.
God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
How gorgeous is His love!
No one dies willingly for anything or anyone without passionate love. Jesus did.
He died for us imperfect people who never measure up, who often screw up.
He died for us who are dying for approval.
He already proved that He approves of us. His stamp of approval was flesh nailed to cross. He stretched out His body, His mind, His soul and stayed there till it was finished—the ransom paid, the accusations slayed, the safe way paved in blood from heart beating wild love for each of us. It was finished on the cross. And then came Sunday.
Can we dwell on this and let such love saturate us to the point where all fear is washed away?
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18
Drives out. Not just remove and drop. Drives. Out. Far and away.
As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12
Can we conceive of any greater distancing?
But what about people?
People judge. People withhold and withdraw love and approval. People hurt.
But some people are safer than others. Some of us hurt others unintentionally and when we’ve truly done something wrong, we will admit it and apologize.
Some people are quite aware of our own dark places, our own ugliness, and the fact that we’ve been forgiven much. And those of us who know we’ve been forgiven much, can love much. (Luke 7:47)
There’s a humility that comes from seeing your our own darkness in all its ugliness and realizing that it is only by grace that we live and are loved. There’s a humility that comes from knowing that, in essence, we’re all the same—imperfect people needing to be loved. People who hold these truths have goodwill. We will to be good to others—to love others as we want to be loved by others—as we already ARE loved by God.
When we reach the place of humility and thankfulness through recognition of who we are capable of being in our imperfection, we can be freed from the shadows. We can be loved in the light and love in the light. Shame no longer has the power to bind. We are set free to love and be loved.
Once we grasp how completely loved we are, even in our imperfection, we can let go of approval-seeking.
We’re already approved by the One who made us.
We’re already loved enough.
No need for the Good Housekeeping seal of approval or any other.
We’ve been sealed by the cross of God.