SEARCHING FOR APPROVAL
BY: DAVE GARNER
APRIL 16, 2008
I had been lying there all night, in and out of sleep. I would wake up and jot down a thought. I was excited about what I was hearing and began to feel a tinge of pride slowly rising up in me; finally I would be able to show everyone that God talks to me, too. I knew that it was God talking to me, and I could not get what He was telling me on paper fast enough. I wanted to hear more and more and it was only because I could no longer hold my eyes open that I laid my pen down and finally went to sleep. I was awake early the next morning, excitedly calling the elders of my little church family, letting them know that I was going to share what God had given to me during the night in the next church service. What I had received was mine, and even if they didn’t agree with it, I was going to tell them anyway, for it was truth and they needed to have it. It was a chore to wait the two or three days to the next church service, but I managed and I was definitely ready when the time finally came.
Just for a little background, I felt that what I had received would challenge the teachings of older ones within the group, because in my mind it was a truth that was so big, they could not possibly know. I also felt that they would probably not accept what I was going to tell them, so I was prepared in that way too. I was tense and excited at the same time and the revelation I had was big, but it was mine and I knew it was from God and I believed it and was determined to convince them of it. Our church was a small church and we had one line of five long pews down the center, and a short pew behind the pulpit, which was situated near the entrance, and another short pew and a long pew lengthways along the wall on the left side of the sanctuary. My six year old daughter was sitting on the pew behind me, and my mother was sitting on the near end of the long pew to my left and at the angle she was setting, she could see my daughter. All of the rest of the congregation was setting in the pews down the center.
Now, at this time in my life my mother was the greatest spiritual influence. In fact, truth be known, without realizing it, I sought for her approval to justify my self worth as an up and coming minister, according to her evaluation. I suppose that you could say that I was dependent upon her approval, even though it was on an unconscious level, because if you would have asked me at the time, I would have vehemently denied it. In a way, at that time in my life, she unconsciously represented all that I knew of God, for it was through her influence that I learned about God. All my life up to that point, she was the measuring stick by which I measured the Christian experience. She had always been the strong spiritual influence over my life. She was the one who told us about God. She was the one who took our family to church. She was the one who prayed with us and read the Bible to us. Her whole life was centered upon seeking God and taking care of us; therefore if she accepted it, God must accept it. If she said it, God must have said it, and that was just how it was.
Even when I was overseas in the military, I don’t ever remember being concerned about what God thought of my loose living and wanton behavior, even in the darkest period of my rebellious years. I never considered the right and wrong of any of my actions, based upon a direct relationship to God. I always measured right and wrong through the life of my mother, and during this time I don’t ever remember being able to totally involve myself in a rebellious carnal act, without wondering what my mother would say if she knew what I had been doing. My scope of all that God was, was wrapped up and measured through the life of my mother, and my unconscious desire to have her approval only intensified when I became a Christian.
Now mixed in this was my independent desire to learn of God on my own. I felt that if God could talk to them, her, than He could talk to me, thus when I received this revelation, I was determined to show and proclaim my independence from their influence, but looking back I realize that at the same time I was desperately seeking for approval, especially from my mother. I boldly stood up with notes in hand, ready to challenge the world if need be, and began to deliver my message that I was certain no one else knew. I had purposely put the controversial paragraph about half way down on the first page, because it was the most important and I was impatient to get it voiced. I got to the hard part and barreled right on through it and as I spoke the last word of that particular paragraph I looked up and to my horror, I saw my mother looking at me shaking her head negatively. A flood of thoughts began to roll around in my mind and it shook me to my very foundation. I began to question myself in my mind, and doubt began to rise up; could I have been wrong? Could it be that I missed it? I must have said it wrong. As I started speaking again, I was lost in a myriad of thoughts and I was no longer able to concentrate on what I was saying. I desperately began to try and understand where I went wrong, and in doubt and confusion I could not go on, so I excused myself and sat down.
Before services I had told my mother that I was going to give a long message, and what I said would probably surprise her. After services my mother came to me and she asked me, “Son, why did you stop and sit down?” I was flabbergasted, and l angrily told her that she was the one who shook her head no when I voiced the controversial part of the message and I did not understand how come she shook her head in front of the whole church. I told her it was wrong for her to reject it outright without hearing my explanation. She said, “Son, I agreed with what you were saying, I thought it was wonderful what the Lord gave to you. I was not shaking my head at you; I was shaking my head ‘no’ to your daughter who was setting behind you. She was squirming and putting her feet up on the bench and showing her underwear, and I was motioning for her to be still. I was not condemning or rejecting your message.” My daughter had been setting directly behind me facing the audience, and my mother had to look almost at me, in order to see her behind me.
What I found fascinating is the fact that she shook her head “no” just as I had declared my challenging revelation, and of course when she was looking my way, I assumed she was looking at me. I had forgotten my daughter setting behind me. I learned a hard lesson that day that has since stuck with me over the years. I had no idea that I was trying to serve God through my mother’s eyes and acceptance, and the realization shocked me. This event awakened within me the awareness that before I could go on and develop a personal relationship with God, I had to totally focus my attention upon seeking for life and truth on my own terms. I suppose it caused me to over compensate by building a spiritual wall between others and myself, especially my mother. I don’t believe that we were able from that time on, to just set down and freely hold a conversation concerning the scriptures, as we did before. I had crossed that invisible line and I would never again be able to view God through my mother’s eyes. I had entered into that place of finding God on my own terms, and it is this independence, good or bad, that sets us free to develop our own personal relationship and establish our beliefs in the kingdom of God.
There always seems to be a positive and a negative to every circumstance. It is true that I was never able to openly enjoy the spiritual fellowship I once had with my mother, but the event also compelled me to begin an earnest evaluation of myself, which provoked me to prove myself before God. Speaking spiritually, as we grow… all of us have to come to these places in our search for God where we have to let go of the past in order to be able to take the next step to go forward, and growing pains are hard upon us all. But looking back now, I realize more and more that sometimes we are prone to over compensate in our actions and I have paid a heavy price for it. In my zeal to learn more of God, I shut out the people around me who meant the most to me in life. The loss of fellowship with my church family members, especially my mother, was in part influenced by pride and a selfish desire to make my own way and unwillingness to listen to anyone else.
Even more than this, later on I realized that I had inadvertently transferred my desire for acceptance away from my mother, and directed it toward God. Instead of recognizing it as a deficiency on my part, I just broadened the scope of my search for acceptance. My mother really did accept me with all of my faults, yet I still felt inadequate because I could never see myself living up to what I perceived to be, however in error, her expectations. After this event, I came to God with the same desire for acceptance, and it became part of the foundation upon which I developed my belief structure. Did you know that you can never find approval with God until you find approval with yourself? Many times after that, I found myself evaluating or measuring God’s approval by how the people around me positively or negatively responded to me. When I went out to minister, if I didn’t get a good offering, I would have to wrestle with the thought that maybe I didn’t give God enough myself, and this was the reason for Him withholding it from me, or if my car broke down maybe God really did not want me ministering or even more than this, maybe I was not good enough to minister His word. For awhile there the Lord would send me individuals who would prophecy a word of encouragement over me, giving me the impetus to go on, but even those became few and far between.
The constant desire for God’s approval plagued my Christian walk for years, until I came to the understanding, God accepts me just as I am, and the work that I do on His behalf is all done because I believe in Him and I love Him, not because I seek His approval and want Him to pat me on the back and give me a cookie for being good. He already loves me and He already accepts me, I do not have to seek for His approval, I just have to believe in Him before I truly am able to come to the full understanding that His abundance, His life is already present within my heart. Before I can truly receive this understanding fully into my heart, I must first approve of myself, for if I do not approve of myself and if I don’t like the guy looking at me in the mirror, I will never receive into my spirit the truth that God loves me and approves of me.
As long as I continue to come to Him seeking for His approval, I will never be able open up my heart and share in true spiritual fellowship with Him or with others, because I will always see myself as inadequate in some way. As long as I do not have an inner peace with who I am at this moment, I will continue to measure my worth according to what I perceive myself to be in comparison to everyone I associate with. A person in this state of being is never satisfied with their own worth and is destined to continue their search for approval from outside of themselves, but what is sad is that they will never be able to find it, for they only have eyes for the flaws and the shortcomings. It is only by knowing Him who is our ever present Savior, identifying with Him and thereby resting in Him, that peace is able to reign in the heart and true fellowship can begin to take place.
SEARCHING for APPROVAL [Dave Garner] 4-16-08 1