Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man (Proverbs 3:3-4).
When I first accepted Christ, I had heard how much God loved me. I was the apple of his eye. I was his beloved. Right? Not so much. The truth was that those scriptures were really just idealistic verses of poetry to me. They sounded romantically religious, like lines in a Shakespearian play where lovers bequeath their love for each other. It was years before the Biblical truths blasted past the concrete barriers of my mind and found their way into my withered heart. For the first decade of my conversion, they were merely fragments of head knowledge floating around my injured intellect. Like verses a kindergartner memorizes in Sunday school, I could recite them, but they did nothing to change my reality. Despite how much God supposedly loved me, my lovesick heart was still lovesick. I still desperately craved approval.
For years, I continued to pursue my worth from friends and relationships. Because of the deep void in my soul and my nagging insecurities, I was in constant pursuit. I needed large daily fixes to sustain my wounded soul.
It wasn’t until I completely exhausted all other means of filling my soul that I finally looked up and asked God for his help. He was my last resort, not my first. But he waited patiently. He didn’t even seem to mind being last, and, interestingly, he held nothing back. When my soul awakened to how satisfying his love and favor can be, I never craved a substitute again. In one divine encounter at the end of my rope, I discovered how madly God loves me. That’s when he completely liberated me from the opinions of others. From that day almost twenty years ago, sitting on my worn out beige sofa from Oklahoma Discount Furniture, my heart felt rich. It really no longer mattered what others thought of me. As long as I had God’s approval, what others thought barely mattered. I was no longer a kindergarten Christian. I finally got it. I understood his love. As a grown up believer, it somehow sounded more mature to say I didn’t care what people thought about me. The desire for applause was a weakness. And that’s been my stance for years.
Until this week when an article about me appeared in the Religion section of The Oklahoman.
I’m not going to lie. I’ve loved the applause. It’s been very affirming when friends and family and people I respect or even people I barely know congratulate me on the article or jokingly call me celebrity. I’ve struggled with prideful thoughts, especially when a prominent leader in the faith-based community sent me a copy of the article in the mail as a thoughtful gesture. She noticed. Oh my gosh! A Christian big shot took the time to clip the article, look up my address and put it in an envelope and mail it to me. I must definitely be somebody now. If she and the newspaper both acknowledged my efforts that’s absolute proof—I’ve made it big time and there’s no stopping me now. Just let me have my day in the limelight soaking in all the sunshine. After that you can call me Big Time Christian Celebrity Christy.
Okay…I’m exaggerating a bit. But seriously, having to sort through the onslaught of thoughts along with the guilt that accompanied the applause factor has made me reevaluate my former conclusion that the opinions of others don’t matter to me. Obviously they still do. The joy I’ve felt from others congrats felt, well…amazing. It made me smile. I felt immensely validated. I know ultimately it’s God’s opinion that matters most to me, but is it sinful that I’ve enjoyed the accolades? Am I puffed with pride if it feels good when others applaud what God is doing in my life? It is wrong that I’ve enjoyed a day of celebrity status?
Proverbs 3:3-4 says this: Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.
In the past I used to desire the favor of man first and foremost. If God wanted to chime in and give me a wink, that was a bonus, but I’d settle for just having man’s approval. The opinions of humans trumped the divine, but I had it all backwards. That’s why my applause bucket never got full. There’s a reason this scripture mentions God first. He should be the first one we want to win favor and a good name from. Man is secondary. That’s the divine order. God’s favor is the prerequisite to achieve anything eternal. Without his favor, any kingdom work we complete with mere human effort is an artificial accomplishment, a divine knockoff.
According to this scripture, however, when I acknowledge the divine order, the outcome of love and faithfulness is favor not only with the king, but with the kingdom as well. Honestly, I’m quite relieved. The word has put my heart at ease that no, it’s not wrong to enjoy the applause. As long as my motive is to please the creator and not the crowd, a good name is the natural result of divine favor.
We all need witnesses to our life. It affirms our calling when others acknowledge our victories and share our successes. I used to think it was a weakness to crave approval, but now I realize God created us to crave approval—his approval. Counterfeit approval can derail our destiny, but when we have the applause of heaven, the great cloud of witnesses drives us toward our destiny. It’s when we first have the favor of God and man recognizes that favor that we can truly accomplish his work.
This Week’s Giveaway: Post a comment to enter. Next Monday, April 30, 2012, I’ll select one of you at random to win a copy of God, Girls and Getting Connected, Spiritual Apps for a Teen’s Life.
To win favor and a good name in the sight of God is divine. To win the favor and a good name in the sight of God and man is divinely delightful.