Sunday, March 25, 2007

Belonging and Approval

Last night I got together with some High School friends I was in Show Choir with for our 10th year reunion. We went to our school's choir performance and then out for drinks. What a night! I hardly know where to begin, but it was great seeing everyone and where they were on their journey.

For now, I'll share one thing about the night that hit me. We discussed our life in the show choir and also our director's "interesting" teaching tactics. I heard two words repeated a lot: Belonging and Approval.

Most of us had dreams that we would make The Ambassadors and finally belong somewhere. There would always be a place to sit in the cafeteria. You'd never be alone on a Friday night. It would be a tight group of friends who got each other's back. Our Junior Year was anything but that. In fact, it was splintered, cliquish, and backstabbing. The competition was rough and very few people got along with everyone. The rose colored glasses fell off.

In the same way, we struggled to win the approval of our director. Never being good enough. Never hearing, "Great Job." Always feeling like he was manipulating us and playing mind games - which he probably was. On one hand we were filled with tremendously inflated pride at being the top show choir in the entire known universe, and on the other hand we felt like losers when our director offered us sarcastic and snide critiques.

A Change of Perspective:

I think of my life now. It is so different! The Bible says:

"Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." Gal 1:10

Pleasing God and pleasing men are worlds apart. Men can fail us, crush us, and have their own personal issues mixed in that complicate life when we are trying to follow their lead. But because I love God, Romans 8:28 says that God is working all things out for my good. God is for me!

He also understands that I am from dust and can sympathize with my weaknesses. I don't have to struggle with, "Am I good enough?" The answer is a resounding No! I'm not good enough, and He knows that. That's why He sent Jesus. Because I believe that His death covered my sins and the mistakes I'm bound to make, God no longer treats me like I deserve. He's adopted me into His family and treats me as His special child. How does my Heavenly Father treat me?

"If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Matthew 7:11

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" Matthew 6:26

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ." Ephesians 1:3

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:7

Of course, as His child, I have responsibilities to act accordingly, but He still understands the struggle that goes on in each of us. The Apostle Paul said in Romans 7:

"I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin."

He knows we are going to struggle, and He gave us His Spirit to work in us, and We have the ability to overcome our sin only in Him.

"You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." I John 4:4

And He promises in I John 1:9 that He will also always forgive my sins.

As if this wasn't good enough, He plans on rewarding us for the good that we do. He will remember all of our good deeds, even as simple as offering someone a cool drink. Things I could never remember, He will. Unbelievable. I pray that at the end of my life when I walk out of hear, I'll here the praise I may never receive from men on this earth. "Well done, My good and faithful servant."

In the meantime, He's given us a community where I belong. Many people I talk to are disillusioned by the many splits and fractures in the church. I get it. But when you are walking close to God, He brings people into your life to walk with you on your journey. The bonds that He enables us to share go beyond music preference, clothing style, and versions of the Bible. Of course we are all going to fail and disappoint each other, but according to His plan, He shows ways of restoration and forgiveness that are only possible with Him.

I know where I belong, and I know whose approval I'm seeking.
God began this work in me, and I'm trusting in His faithfulness to complete it. So I'll end with the words of a song we sang in Show Choir, "I'll never go back to where I was before."

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