I could probably boil the fears that have simmered alongside my writing down to one simple (but solid) reality. I have feared that the opinions and impressions others form about me as a result of my writing would one day crowd out the One voice I care most about.
I am all-too-aware of my proclivity to bow to the masses. Even though it’s been some time since I have seen that issue fully-activated within me, I am not naive enough to believe this fault-line, though dormant, has disappeared.
For a long time, I saw two options of how to respond to a potential flare-up of people pleasing. Bury any opportunity that might solicit people pleasing deep in the sand, like the defunct mine that it is and bolt, or develop a strong line of defense. Any sort of maturity in God says the first option probably isn’t best. (I’m not saying I have much of that maturity, but just enough to steer me clear of door #1). So I settled on the second approach.
It looked like this. Resist (both in prayer and in discipline) giving into the approval of others. My fight came, at times, in the form of long hours in prayer, asking God to remove the almost instinctive ear-perks I had at the sound of my name. And other times I figuratively plugged my ears and sang a ditty, hoping it wouldn’t pass through the membrane between my ear-drums and my brain.
Then something miraculous happened. Some of the people whose opinions I cared most about (and, let’s be honest, that list was long) started to waver in their praise of this little princess. Some saw the true inner-workings of my heart and didn’t like what they saw there. Others believed what they wanted to see. Regardless, I was caught up in a God-orchestrated tomato-toss (a response to my fight forged in prayer, perhaps?) and had no choice but to end the performance.
So I went back-stage. And it’s there where I met the One whose opinion of me, I later-learned, mattered most. He saw all my warts — but called me beautiful. He didn’t neglect the ugly parts of me that needed tending too; His grace wasn’t like a cheap prize at the fair. He carefully, constructively and redemptively walked through my burned-out forest and led me to His wide-open pasture.
What was revolutionary about the whole thing was that — after years of hearing Him tell me how He saw me — beginning to believe His opinion changed everything. I didn’t need to bolt from all opportunities for recognition, nor did I need to fend off any absorption of the opinions of others. As I’ve discovered how He sees me, the opinions of others, which had taken up so much space in my heart, became itty-bitty. I can honestly say I stopped caring (at least most of the time). I had been validated by the One who mattered most.
Oh, in the middle of it all, it felt like one big mess. But in retrospect it seems very simple. When you know (from scripture) and feel (from His Holy Comforter) the truth of His validation over your life, the other voices no longer carry weight. Whether it be the waitress who is annoyed because your husband sent back his food, or the boss you’ve always wanted to endorse your work, and everything in between, the only way to make those voices lose their power is to ask Him how He sees you.
For me, the more I write — the more I put myself “out there” — the more it requires me to find that unseen-by-the-world, only-me-and-God space in my life and ask “tell me how You see me, God.”
And then I wait. And listen. And when He responds, I whisper “help me to receive what I hear.”