Approval vs. Gratitude

Last night during my small group, we looked at John 10. We read about Jesus being the shepherd and the door, and we discussed the fences that we often try to climb to earn that same feeling of completeness that can only be found through Christ, by going through that door. One of our discussion questions was around what we use to try and climb the fence… in other words, what idols, emotional or otherwise, we use to achieve the glory and salvation that is only found through Christ.

And as we sat there discussing it… I realized mine:

Approval.

I have always thrived off impressing people. It’s probably part of being an only child, then becoming the youngest of four. It also probably has to do with how I went through the AP and honors system in high school, was in the honors college during my university years, completed my master’s concurrently with my bachelor’s… typically, being on such a rigorous academic track sways you towards being impressive, and therefore feeling like you constantly need to impress.

But why?

My stepdad and I talked about this over the holidays. I was hoping to have impressed him with how well I navigated the healthcare landscape to secure my own coverage, and, well, he wasn’t as impressed as I’d hoped he would be. Instead, he told me that I didn’t need his approval on something like that.

And you know what?

He was right.

I may not have realized it at the time, but I certainly did last night. As we sat there talking, I felt so convicted to express my own fences, and to share what God was pushing me to see instead.

As a small group, we talked about how we are actively pushing ourselves to not climb our fences, but instead go through the door, to be herded by our shepherd.

I realized that perhaps I haven’t been so great at that, but there is a simple way for me to get better:

Practice thankfulness.

Because, really, these things I’ve been doing aren’t impressive at all: they’re blessings. I am blessed to have the support and encouragement from a strong family that pushed me to achieve what I could in school. I am blessed to have a state university system that offered the opportunity for me to not only earn my bachelor’s on a full ride, but my master’s. I am blessed to have been led towards my first full-time job straight out of college. I am blessed to be in a position where I can afford my own healthcare.

These are not things I have done to impress. These are things I have been given to be thankful for.

I don’t need to seek the approval of anyone for these achievements; ultimately, these achievements aren’t even mine. I need to turn it back to God and be thankful for His consistent love, His overwhelming grace, and His ultimate plan for me.

Approval from other humans is simply a fence that I’ve tried to climb to achieve satisfaction.

Gratitude (and dedication) to Our Father is the only door I need to walk through to get there.

Thank you, Lord, for showing me that last night. I needed it, and I am grateful.

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