Last week I loaded up my three kidders in our van to go meet up with some friends for Adventure Club. It’s always bottom line chaos anyway with a breastfeeding baby in tow, but the plan was fantastic (it always is, that should have been my first clue). My friends, one with a zoology background and one with years as an outdoor orienteer counselor on her resume, had planned a magical hike through an area park with a bunch of other little people. Rolling over logs, catching bugs in homemade bug restrainers (its a thing), and all while the mamas talked about foster children and cycling classes… it was going to be a perfect day!
But, I had one child who decided against all odds that it was the day she would be particularly salty. Multiple meltdowns, refusal to participate, forever bringing up the rear of the pack, and overlooking the beautiful learning and connecting opportunity by demanding fruit snacks. By the time we loaded back into the minivan I was throwing my own internal adult tantrum.
Off we drove and I talked to the Lord. Why was I so irritated? She’s young enough for this to be normal, albeit needing me to shepherd her little heart. But what was it that I wanted so badly that I was responding in crabbiness? Hmmm…
Hello, my name is Megan, and I’m a recovering approval addict.
Like so many situations in my life, this little hiking escapade revealed what I am still in bondage to (though experiencing gradual and incremental victory): fear of man.
In this situation, I had wanted to just fit in, go with the flow, have curious and engaged kiddos for my own vanity. It seems benign enough, but really it isn’t, and it isn’t an isolated incident.
Two years ago when our family of four got a hot, sticky apartment in Shizuoka, Japan in the base of a valley a few blocks from the ocean, in passing I asked our friend, “So what’s the plan if there is an earthquake and tsunami?” Not an abnormal question to ask for that area. “Run up the hill as fast as you can.” said he. And that was that. But oh, how I fretted and overthought and overturned rocks in my heart that summer when we realized God was leading us away from Japan. Fear of man set in for how we would have conversations with people back in the states. Anxiety makes for a really odd way of worrying. Tsunamis? Whatever. People’s opinions? Terrifying.
What does this fear-of-man addiction look like?
It looks like driving away from perfectly lovely evenings with friends, calling to mind everything I said and overanalyzing just how stupid I was and texting back apologies or clarifications that no one asked for. Applying unnecessary pressure for my daughters to conquer certain milestones early so I look like a semi-with-it mom. Falling into bed at night quite sure that I’ve messed up everything. Assuming I am forever a liability to be tolerated more than I am a friend to be enjoyed. Always too much, and at the same time never enough. It’s a root of pride because it is total consumption with myself. It is idolatry because it makes me run to people for comfort or validation instead of God Himself. And it’s a soul snare.
“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” Proverbs 29:25
The freedom I am slowly finding (heavens, it looks like it just might take forever) is that I don’t need to elevate my thinking of myself. Oh no, that plays right into the trap of pride and adds even more anxiety – attempting to convince worthiness to myself. C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
I’m convinced that my final freedom (which has already been purchased by Christ) would be this: total self-forgetfulness.
The good news is that Jesus set me free the day I received His mercy, and the good news is also that it is the same mercy that sets me free moment by moment from the prison of my own mind.
“Cultivate the habit of fixing your eye more simply on Jesus Christ, and try to know more of the fullness there is laid up in Him for every one of His believing people.
Do not be always poring down over the imperfections of your own heart, and dissecting your own besetting sins.
Look more to your risen Head in heaven, and try to realize more than you do that the Lord Jesus not only died for you, but that He also rose again, and that He is ever living at God’s right hand as your Priest, your Advocate, and your Almighty Friend.” says J.C. Ryle.
Sister, are you ensnared? Imprisoned today by eternally overanalyzing yourself to the detriment of your joy? Fixated on what you assume other people must be thinking of you (which is only a guess, you never really know, and more than likely they aren’t thinking of me as much as I pridefully assume)? Fearful that you are one negative encounter away from being kicked to the curb?
You cannot be dumped out of the love of God in Christ Jesus. He has permanently and unconditionally won your love. His affection is fixed on you forever, to His glory. If you have taken up His freewill offering of mercy, than He does not “put up” with you, He delights in you.
“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
When I remember this and let Him consume my thoughts, there really isn’t any room for my inflated self-thinking. But there is freedom to love, love, love like I have it in overflowing quantities. That is the freedom I want for us today. I’m praying we both get addicted to that kind of approval.