Have you ever had that nagging sense that you just aren’t enough? Have you ever spent copious amounts of time comparing and competing with others? Have you ever modulated who you truly are and what you deeply value in an attempt to get someone’s approval? How much of your perceived worth is linked to what others think and say about you? Do you sometimes find yourself in the role of a CPA – adjusting the bottom line of your life according to the size of your successes and failures?
These are the kinds of questions that run through all of our minds and some point or another in our lives. In a way, those things, and many others just like them, are symptoms of what it means to live in what the Bible describes as a fallen world. Things are not as God intended them to be. Relationship with God, each other and the world around us is broken. We are all east of Eden. We are all less-than-human.
What these questions reveal are legitimate and authentic needs. First, they reveal our desire to be seen, valued, and loved. They point to our need to be accepted, included, and part of a community. But they also shine a spotlight on the longing within each of us for the Holy and Transcendent. They highlight that there is something outside of and beyond ourselves that we cannot give or do for ourselves. Ultimately, they disclose what we treasure and to what or whom we have given our hearts. They are the symptoms of having lost our way on our journey with God.
Continuing along the path of seeking to find ourselves in the approval and acceptance of others is risky business. Sometimes our attempts to be recognized and praised by others fail to be acknowledged by those from whom we seek approval. What then? Try harder? Morph even further?
As painful as those experiences of rejection can be, they can also be grace-filled moments. They can be course-correcting opportunities to discover that who we are in the eyes of God is not dependent on the opinions, praise or approval of others. There is nothing we must do to gain God’s acceptance, approval or love. Our identity is found is who and whose we are – beloved children of our Creator-God. When we recognize and accept that amazing truth, we’ve taken a huge step forward on our faith journey.