Until you are convinced of God's incredible love for you, you will continue looking for replacement love everywhere but in the heart of Christ.
No matter where you live or work, temptation confronts you. The enemy prowls like a lion, stalking people on Wall Street, fashion runways, suburban cul-de-sacs, Facebook walls, and even gravel roads in rural Iowa. You and I are in a showdown with Satan, who will use every opportunity he can to whisper in our ears, "What are people thinking of you?"
The enemy will tell you that you're too fat, too frumpy, too stupid, too poor. He will do whatever he can to set your affections on the things of this world, instead of on Christ. And he'll wrap those accusations in glossy magazine covers if he has to.
The search for approval might lead some women to the cosmetic counter or the plastic surgeon, hoping that if only they looked better, someone they love might finally notice them. It might lead others to climb the corporate ladder in search of the respect and admiration they've longed for. Others might abandon personal convictions in favor of popularity. But what do we benefit if we gain the whole world, only to lose our own souls ()?
We get our fill, and then—poof—it is gone. For what end? Love idols rust. In a blink, this life will be over. And the popularity ratings will mean nothing on the other side of eternity. We have to ask ourselves now, starting today and every day, Whose "attagirl" am I after? Whom do I really want to say, "Well done"?
The implications are not only personal but global. If your need for more and more approval apart from God builds, it might distract you from your earthly calling entirely. You might miss what God has for you. Here's why: The Holy Spirit might nudge you to take a new job, adopt a child, move to the mission field, become a Sunday school teacher, start a Bible study, or write a book. But if you're looking over your shoulder, wondering what people think of you, you might be inclined to ignore that nudge. You might walk away from your call, your God-designed purpose for living. Because you are afraid. You fear disapproval and rejection, so you turn your back on the very mission God has called you to.
I have been guilty of ignoring nudges. I have been a modern-day Much-Afraid.
But I have also been loved and gently guided. Even as I struggled to find my truest identity in Christ, the Holy Spirit, like a consummate gentleman, escorted me straight into the Word of God.
During those lonely first years on the farm, I began asking some questions: What does the Bible say about this? What does it really mean to be approved?
I found one powerful answer in 2 Timothy 2:15: "Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval."
Not so I could present myself to newspaper readers. Or peers. Or parents. Or neighbors. Or even Bible study partners and pastors.
"Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval."
But retraining my eyes toward Christ would take years—and might in fact, take a whole lifetime.
After moving to the farm, our family grew by one more baby. Anna's arrival upped the stakes again. My husband and I wanted both of our girls to know what love really meant.
Many years later, I flew to Haiti. During that trip, I made a startling discovery in a village. A local woman had mixed dirt with oil, then pressed the mixture into tiny discs that looked like cookies. She had lined hundreds of theses mud-cookies on mats, where they were drying out in the sun. After the discs were thoroughly dried, these dirt cakes would be eaten. By people. This was not some bizarre Haitian delicacy. People in Haiti eat dirt because it gives their starving bodies a false sense of satisfaction.
But mud pies don't fill. They merely mask real hunger.
I snapped a photograph of those mud pies, and at first glance, I saw them as a depressing truth about world hunger and abject poverty. Later, I saw the mud pies as a metaphor for the life of any Christian who has ever looked to something or someone other than God for fulfillment.
We can go a lifetime eating mud pies, instead of living bread. I ate a lot of dirt before even trying the Bread of Life.
Now I want more Bread, less dirt. I want more life, less mud. I want the love for which my hunger was created.
And if you've come this far with me, you do too.
At times, this fight can feel like an inner war. The Bible is our sword; the Prince of Peace our captain. A whole cloud of witnesses is cheering us on, and the saints know how this one ends.
My husband, my daughters, and I are still on this farm. Our girls are now in grade school; both are tempted by the mud pies of this world, in places like soccer fields, magazine covers, and spelling-bee stages. They have begun to experience the pressure to perform and perfect. But my husband and I want them to know how they are already loved by a Savior. We want to know it ourselves.
And we want you to know it too.
We are all worth fighting for. On Calvary, Jesus said as much. But because Christ has us for eternity, the enemy is doing all that he can to undermine us while we're on earth.
So comes this story. This fight for glory. This war.
Let's do this.
Taken from Love Idol by Jennifer Dukes Lee copyright © 2014. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.
Jennifer Dukes Lee is a storyteller and grace dweller, blogging about faith and life at www.JenniferDukesLee.com. She and her husband live on the Lee family farm in Northwest Iowa, with their two daughters.