The women of the IF:Gathering have left me with words that are game changers; too much to process in one sitting or one day. This is part two of a week long look back at the ways that I don’t want to stay the same.
I care a lot about what others think. And that is not always a bad thing: I think it is good and healthy to want to be respected and thought well of, because it is hard to do life alongside people whom, for whatever reason, we may have a strong distaste for. But that is not really what I’m talking about. I really care what other people think, like, to the point that my day could be a pretty good one or a pretty bad one depending on how I perceive my standing in your mind.
I came out of the womb being a people pleaser. And then God blessed me with an upper middle class upbringing and an athletic talent that got me more recognition than most as a teenager. Not that I never made mistakes, but my childhood was really fairly storybook. The result is that I grew far too accustomed to people high-fiving me along the way.
Adulthood may have changed the context from which I seek approval but it hasn’t changed my craving of it, and I do so many things on a regular basis because I think people will like me if I do. I watch my sweet little daughter be, well, not so sweet at times and I worry more about what others are thinking of my parenting than I am about actually parenting her. I write something here on this space and measure its success by likes and comments rather than by the authenticity that I wrote it with.
But here is something I know to be true, and I am learning this more and more every day: God doesn’t care about the same things people care about.
During Jennie Allen’s opening talk at IF, a talk that was raw and so true to her journey leading this gathering, she said this: “I have tasted God in such a way that now all of you people feel small to me.” And I’m sure what she said in the few minutes after that was beautiful but I actually don’t remember it, because those words were taking up all the space in mind as I quickly wrote them in my journal. All of you feel small to me. I want that so badly. Not a lesser view of people, places, community and life right here where I am, but a much, much greater view of God. I actually tremble with an anxious excitement at the thought of what my life would look and feel like if His guidance was the first and last place I went, if His will was actually the truest pursuit of my life. What could change if I was really willing to be totally misunderstood by people if it meant that I was exactly where God wanted me to be, doing what He wanted me to do?
People around me have told me that I’m brave. But I’m not. I want to be, but the truth is I have chosen a very safe journey, one that has not cost me too much yet. I do have a heart that breaks at the knowledge or sight of injustice, but y’all, that does not feel very brave. It actually feels safe, because who could possibly criticize me for wanting to stop an injustice? It is a path of altruism that I’ve been walking, not at all hating the high fives along the way because believe it or not, I can turn even a seemingly selfless pursuit in to one that makes me look ok in your eyes.
God can, no, will accomplish his work in anyone, perfectly pure hearts or not. But I think we can be doing all the right things and still feel empty if we are doing them for the wrong reasons. This has been so much of my story. Yesterday I thought a lot about repentance, and today I’m thinking about really knowing, even tasting God, in such a way that everything else feels so, so small. He is the good soil I have to be growing in. Otherwise I’m just a temporarily pretty flower in a jar of water. It looks nice on the table today, but very soon that water won’t be enough. We do need each other to keep us going, to refuel our visions and to support us and love us and tell us what our hearts need to hear (trust me, I believe this!). But not instead of what Jesus wants us to hear. It’s an equation I have often gotten backwards, but one I am working on correcting. Jesus > approval. He is bigger.