“Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” (Galatians 1:10 NIV)
From a very young age I always loved being in the spotlight. I developed a love for singing and performing early on. Whether I was making up skits to perform at family events and celebrations or singing into my beloved microphone from the comfort of my own basement, I found a rush of excitement whenever I had the opportunity to perform for others. And I especially liked the applause and reactions from an audience.
In my adolescence, I began auditioning for local theatre. I have some very positive and fond memories being a part of theatre back then. And it certainly helped boost my self esteem. I wasn’t a confident child. I always felt not as pretty or as smart as the other girls. Theatre was an outlet for me to freely express myself. It was a place where I felt comfortable being who I was. When in most other areas of my life, I felt out of place, shy and awkward.
During my High School years, it became more challenging to land the bigger roles in the plays. I came from a graduating class of almost 800 seniors. It was a very big school and it was competitive. I quickly began to realize that I would have to settle for smaller roles. But, I didn’t like having to do that. I wanted more.
So, in my senior year, I decided to try out for the High School Pom Squad. I wasn’t an athletic person and was always one to avoid having to play sports at any and all costs. But, I did have a knack for learning choreography and Poms was something I thought I might excel in. I remember practicing diligently every day after school to nail the routine for try-outs. I finished try-outs and that night, at home, I sat anxiously by the phone waiting to hear the news. The phone eventually rang and my heart sank, as I listened to one of the judge’s tell me that they were sorry I did not make the squad, “It was a tough decision.”
That was a turning point for me in my life. After that experience, I quit trying. I immersed myself in relationships with people, especially boys, where I tried to be star. Meaning, I was always molding myself into what they wanted – instead of following my own heart. If I immersed myself in trying to please and gain their affections, then I didn’t have to focus on what I needed to, in order to work on myself. It became a dangerous, downward spiral for me. And it was no surprise that I ended up facing a teenage pregnancy right before my High School graduation.
In Exodus Chapters 31-35, we see God laying out his framework for the people to construct His tabernacle, and also His requests of them in honoring His purposes for doing so.
God meets with Moses on the Mountain of Sinai to present his terms of the covenant on the stone tablets. While Moses is away, meeting with God, the people grow impatient waiting for him to return. They complain to Aaron (Moses’ brother) about Moses being away too long and the fact that they have no leader to lead them. Aaron then instructs them on how to build a golden calf from which they can worship.
When God learns of Aaron’s actions against Him in building the calf, He is understandably angry at him and the people’s rebellious and stubborn behavior. Moses reminds God of His promises to His servants in delivering their descendants (the Israelites) to the Promised Land (See Exodus 32:11-13). God then shows His mercy and forgives them. Why does God forgive so easily? Moses simply asks for His forgiveness. How gracious is our God to grant forgiveness when we only have to ask.
It’s easy to judge the people for so quickly turning away from God and finding something else to worship in His place; especially, when God has performed miracles like parting the sea, in order to deliver His people to freedom. But, if I’m honest, then I know there have been many times that I have created my own idols in my life instead of turning to the only one I should have – God.
I know back then, in High School, I went outside of God to find recognition and approval that I felt I was lacking in my life. When I didn’t get the part I wanted in the play and didn’t get picked to join the Pom Squad, I immediately felt it was because of something I lacked. The other girls must’ve been prettier or better than me in some way.
It wasn’t long after that I started to develop unhealthy relationships, especially with boys, in order to gain attention and approval that I longed for. And it was no shock that I ended up facing a teenage pregnancy, as a result of my insecurities. My people pleasing and lack of self esteem really caused a lot of negative consequences in my life that could’ve been avoided if I had known who to turn to.
What if I would’ve let God come first back then? What if I would’ve prayed about not getting the role in the play or asked God to show me a direction? Maybe that lead role would’ve come for me, had I stuck in it and not given up. Maybe God would’ve opened another door for me that I didn’t know was there. And maybe I would’ve embraced who I was instead of trying to mold myself into what others wanted me to be.
I can’t say that I haven’t learned from my past mistakes and bad judgements, though. Thanks to God’s Word I now know it is God’s approval I should be seeking first. I am perfectly content with being imperfect and that is all thanks to God in my life.
Father God, I know that I need you all the time. Please forgive me for the times I have sought out other’s approval of me before seeking yours first. Help me to ask for your direction when I am struggling, instead of trying to rely on myself for the answers. You are my Heavenly Father, always by my side wanting to guide me, thank you for loving me that much and for never leaving me when I have sinned against you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.