College was drawing to a close for me. I stood on the edge of my senior year gazing into the future with wild imaginations of where I hoped my career would lead me. I loved the heartbeat of a big city. The hustle and bustle beckoned me. Buildings reaching for the sky just like my dreams.
I was a journalism major with high aspirations. I was clicking out words in downtown Los Angeles as a columnist for a New York fashion newspaper. I could taste the excitement tingling in my fingers.
Sitting on one of the few grassy knolls on campus, I planned a course that would take me to The City. The Big Apple. Madison Avenue. Slick fashion publications. Thoughts swirled through my mind of sitting at my own desk and peering out a 40th floor window of a city tower that overlooked the heartbeat of the city that never sleeps.
I searched for ways that would not only take me to New York City but would also allow me to live in its heart. I had relatives living in New Jersey but they were getting up in years and commuting into the city wasn’t as exciting. Someone writing for a New York publication should be living the life there, I thought.
Then someone told me that one of the sorority houses on campus had a house in New York where alumni lived. The answer seemed like it dropped from heaven into my lap. Just pledge that sorority and my dreams of hitting it big would become a reality.
Although I had never wanted to pledge a sorority because of the party reputation, once I knew this was my sure-fire way to New York, I cast my former convictions aside. I jumped into the pledge pool without hesitation. During pledge week, I met my sorority sister who would be my guide through the process.
I danced my way through parties and gatherings, juggled classes and homework, squeezed in graduation preparation, and kept my eye on the dream. It was a challenge but I thrived on the rush of excitement and a packed schedule.
I lived for the approval of my sorority sisters, the awards and positions I held in college, the feeling of success as I managed my goals. Life was full until one morning when I awoke to red blotches popping up on my arms. Itching and long sleeves on hot California fall days could not stand in the way of my goal.
But the blotches turned into blisters and they spread from my arms up to my scalp and down to my legs. I looked like a late-blooming strawberry. Covered in Calamine lotion, I finally went to the doctor–my aunt’s dermatologist. Laundry detergent and food allergies had been ruled out. The doctor looked firmly into my eyes.
“What was the last thing you added to your schedule?” he chided me. I told him about pledging a sorority and he said emphatically, “Drop it!”
“No,” I wailed. “It’s my ticket to New York City.”
I did not have a personal relationship with the Lord at that time but I faithfully attended church. Later in life I could see that God had intervened in my life and brought my dreams to a screeching halt. I did not fully understand and just figured it wasn’t meant to be.
Now, decades after accepting Jesus into my heart, I still struggle with that need for approval. That longing to reach the pinnacle so that I can feel my life has been worthwhile. That it has mattered.
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” St. Augustine from “The Confessions of St. Augustine. (Click to Tweet)
I raised my children with the hopes that they would shine so that my role as a mother would receive its stamp of approval. Every time they succeeded in school, won awards, or held a desirable position in class, I breathed a sigh of relief. “I’m doing something right,” I would say. And when they made mistakes, caused problems at school, or were not among the top in their class, my stomach clenched in knots. I pushed, prodded, coached, preached. My approval rested on their shoulders.
This Lent I’m on a journey to crush that need for approval because I am finally grasping–and growing in acceptance of the fact that I am already approved by God. Jesus made me worthy, cherished, loved and accepted. Nothing I could achieve in this life could ever equal the approval of God or win His love. His son, Jesus, made me worthy and approved at the cross. He crowned me with compassion and His love.
I am now approved. My call–to go and live like it. Rest in His approval. That’s enough for me. (Click to Tweet)
“He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day and stamp you with approval at high noon.” Psalm 37.6 The Message
I am a reflection of His love and approval. Jennifer Dukes Lee has authored a book about our craving for approval in all the wrong places. Not seeing that our needed approval comes from God. Learn more about the person and book that is changing lives this lent: Jennifer Dukes Lee, Love Idol.
I will be giving away a copy of Jennifer’s book in a random drawing of those who leave comments here on my blog post #loveidol.
From My Heart To Yours,