“Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” John 12:42-43
Recognition feels good.
When we get dolled up, we expect to hear a “you look great!” from our husbands or significant others. When we do something nice for someone, we love to hear “thank you!” When we’re good at what we do, we thrive on reward in the form of raises, tips, trophies, certificates, or double-glances. How do we respond when we don’t get the return? If you don’t get a compliment from your husband or a thank-you card or a nod at the office, do you get upset? Maybe we can overlook one offense, maybe two. But what does it look like when we are in a season of drought? When the positives coming our way are just few and far in-between, or worse yet, when we are expecting a certain amount of recognition or attention from someone in particular who just isn’t giving it?
Recently, I was just being a little brat about something. I had reached out to someone I really respect about something with little affirmation in return. I gave a stiff upper lip and put on some false humility and told myself it really didn’t matter what they thought anyway. Then it happened again and again in other areas and with other people. Before I knew it, I was trapped in an out-of-control pouty pity party. I had become Eeyore.
“Thaaaanks for noticing me.”
It wasn’t until I brought my little pity party to my husband’s attention that I realized what was going on. I had it packaged up nice and pretty: so-and-so just didn’t such-and-such and this happened and that didn’t happen, and I think it must mean that they think this and that about me. And this and that just aren’t true. Waaah.
He’s so calm and patient with me. A man’s man whose edges have been softened by three sisters and one emotional wife. He knows when to tread lightly.
“Maybe God is using this time to teach you how to focus on your need for Him alone instead of trying to get praise from man.” Ouch.
Wait a minute. Doesn’t he KNOW that MY love language is WORDS OF AFFIRMATION? What are we supposed to do, just cross off an ENTIRE love language because it’s the SELFISH one!? Okay then, what’s my other language option…..oh…GIFTS! Seriously!? HOW COME ALL OF MY LANGUAGES ARE THE UNGODLY ONES!? My husband is pretty much a resounding 100% Acts of Service. Blechhhhh. Sometimes marriage can feel like a cruel joke.
His first attempt at restoring me gently…….BLOCKED! I continue, going on and on about poor poor me, blah blah blah. Undeterred (a seasoned veteran), he tries again.
“Babe, I really just think God is using this time to teach you how to focus on your need for Him alone instead of trying to get praise from man.”
All of a sudden, the spirals of pride I had barreled up inside of me came springing out and I was left, maybe for the first time in my life, speechless.
Then, being the spiritual schizophrenic that I am, I began to thank God for putting up with me….a sinner who has no place seeking praise from anyone. I force myself to remember the hard times, the times when I had to press my forehead so hard into the ground in sorrow that it left carpet marks. The times when I needed a savior, not an Atta-Girl.
Seeking praise from men can get us caught up in our pride so much that we stifle the praise due to our Creator. As we press into Him, the thumbs-ups from others around us fade into gray in comparison to the great calling that He has on our lives–living for His glory. Just as those first-century believers who were too afraid to confess their newfound faith in the synagogues for fear of what the Pharisees might do to them, we can lose our footing and fall off of the narrow path when we get caught in the web of seeking affirmation from others, even to the point of denying the very one who has called us. Peter, anyone?
Sometimes I’ll hear of people asking, “what would you do if money were no object? If you could do anything at all, and money didn’t matter, what would you do?” That’s an interesting question. But, let me ask it in a different way. What would you do if what other people thought didn’t matter? If you could just strip away everyone’s responses and opinions about everything you did, what would you do? If you allow yourself to be honest, you might find that you think about what they think about a lot more often than you think you do. If the only thing that mattered was what God thought about something, what would your life look like? How would you love and raise your kids? How would you look for a spouse? How would you dress? How would you serve your husband? Where would you go? What would you do?
Guess what? The only thing that matters is what God thinks about something! That’s it! We are to live to please Him alone (which requires faith–which is also a gift of God). Jesus said “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27). This doesn’t mean that we’re supposed to hate people (obviously). It means that our insane love and devotion to Him should make all other loves look like hate in comparison. He is all that matters. His opinion counts! All glory is due to Him, all praise belongs to Him, and our lives are not our own. We were bought with a price. As we seek His precious face and fall more and more in love with Him, the brattiness gets burned out and we learn to look for His approval alone.
I hope you all had a great 3-day weekend (it was GORGEOUS here in San Diego)! As a side note, I would like to humbly ask for prayer. I am in the middle of writing my first Bible study, and am going to a huge writing conference in about a month to meet with some agents and editors. Please pray that God would just have His way with the whole thing, and that He would continue to provide me with the words that I need to finish up the study. He is so good to me. Thank you for your prayers, and thank you for letting me serve you in whatever way through this blog. In wake of the upcoming deadline, I will be reducing my blogs to a few days a week for the time being. Thank you so much for your support and understanding! Love you all!