For years, I have struggled with approval addiction. Growing up I competed with my sister for my parents’ affection. They had more than enough to go around, but we fought over who was the preferred child. One day, begrudgingly or not, my mother said my sister was her favorite.
Fast forward or rewind (I’m not entirely certain about the timeline of events).
I cowered underneath a playground in my sitter’s backyard. For months, possibly a year or two, I was told that my blanket was for babies. My sitter would rip it from my hands and then leave me in a corner for hours. Neglect. I was an upbeat, bubbly child. The longer I stayed there, I became silent and reserved. My parents noticed and finally removed me from there, but the damage was irreparable (aside from Christ of course).
I can remember my parents working. It was necessary. I have to as a parent. I don’t fault them for it. They are very driven and felt it was required to work 10 hours or so in order to get promoted, earn more money, and give me a comfortable lifestyle. I appreciate what they did for me. My dad grew up poor, really poor. My father lived in a campsite once. I understand he wanted more for himself, more for his children. I craved his time, my mother’s time. I wanted to feel wanted.
In my teenage years, I dated several boys. I was taken advantage of. I was not raped. I was touched without my permission though. I didn’t say no, but I never said yes. Being touched, I was too stunned to say stop. Yes means yes. If you aren’t told you can do something, it is best to refrain (at least in the sexual realm…from personal experience).
I wanted to know I was loved, approved of, desired without condition. The Christian faith is probably appealing to me for the very reason that Christ died for me without me earning his sacrifice. He loves me. He approves of me.
I got into a fight with my father last night. I said something that hurt my mother. He probably said what he did as a reactionary statement. Regardless, my emotions were bruised. I’ve been trying to earn my parents approval, my parents praise since I was a child. I was neglected by babysitters and taken advantage of by boyfriends. I just wanted, and still do, assurance that I’m not a failure. I am loved. I do have a reason, a purpose. I didn’t feel that from his comments last night.
My current church is doing community groups. I also picked up a Lenten devotional at a Catholic Church we went to on Ash Wednesday. In an e-mail exchange through community group and in yesterday’s meditations, I read about God planting us by streams to bear fruit. Even when we can’t see his hand working in us to reap fruit, God is uprooting and planting us so that we bear fruit for him. Singing “Our Father’s Love” last night I recalled these readings. It was what I needed to know—God is working in me. He is bearing fruit from my life when I surrender to him. I am loved and approved by him. Even when the world tears me down, abuses me, or shuts me out, God is holding me in the palm of my hand, taking care of the sapling he planted almost 29 years ago.
This Lenten season I’m trying to be more self-controlled. When I’m applying self-control to my thought life, I must remember that I am a daughter of the Most High King. I have immeasurable worth. He formed me in my mother’s womb for a purpose. I can persist in the struggles of this life, the rejection from humanity, or the inadvertent neglect because I have the hope that God is working this for his good, his glory. He is completing the work he started in me because he loves me so much to make me a part of his story. I don’t need to end the story sooner. God has a beautiful conclusion. I just need to hang onto that cliff to see where the story leads and in it, find his grace is sufficient, abundant, and eternal.
I will bear fruit yet. I have harvested fruit in the past even if I can’t see it.
We must all press on. Perseverance tests our faith and this results in proven character. We are his beloved, his bride. He made each and every one of us. When the world casts us out or beats us up, may we remember his promises. Let us remember our identities in him, not the narrow-minded, stringent identities of labels and societal norms that the world projects on to us. Even if the world does not approve of us, when we love God, pursuing him in faithfulness, he approves us.
Have you noticed fruit produced in your life? If not, what promises of God are you learning to cling onto this Lenten season and beyond?