Estimated reading time: 5 minute(s)
What if… you never received approval from anyone? Would you still be OK? Could you still be… you, without some form of approval; healthy, or unhealthy?
I’m really not sure what answer—if any—would be the “right” answer to those questions. I’m not even sure I have any answer.
God is complete in himself. He is holy, other, different, omni-everything. But he chose in his unfathomable wisdom to create us as autonomous, free-willed, individual beings. I’m really not sure what the entirety of “made in God’s image” looks like, but I am learning more and more that he has clearly given us the ability to choose; every time, good and bad.
(NOTE: That doesn’t mean he doesn’t sometimes intervene—though he definitely doesn’t always—and it doesn’t negate his supreme sovereignty. In his sovereignty he was able to choose to allow us to choose. And yes, that does boggle the mind; has for millennia.)
But we are not like him in that we need.
We need food, drink, shelter, companionship, among other things. God is spirit, and so he does not need most of those things. He does have companionship/relationship within himself (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), but since they have existed as one from the beginning… it’s hard to classify their triune existence as being “needed” by any or all of the three? Again… boggling minds since the beginning of time…
While some of our needs are easily quantifiable, others are less so.
That leads me to our need for “approval”. On some level, we all need this. Some of us really need it, and will go to great lengths to get it. And, if we do not receive approval (in the way in which we hear/receive it) then we will turn to something else to meet (or, really, help us ignore) that need: drugs, alcohol, food, and other addictions.
This need is incredibly strong.
Which makes me wonder… is this need more of an evidence of our deepest need to be connected to our Creator? We need God for everything (in him we live and move and exist) but perhaps we need him most to meet our need to be approved, to have value.
Ah, there it is again. That word “value“.
When we are approved, be it for some accomplishment, some talent, or just some inborn quality we possess, it is easy to feel as though our value resides directly in that which is receiving the approval.
“You’re such a great singer!” … approval! I have value as a singer!
“You are such a kind, selfless person. You’re always willing to help!” … approval! I have value when I do things for people!!
“You, my dear, are stunningly beautiful!“ … approval! I have value because I’m pretty!
And on, and on. We receive signals to our brain—and then to our soul—that we have value because of the things that are receiving praise (and, approval) from the others around us—especially those that mean the most to us.
Now of course, words of praise are great! Do NOT hold them back! We are meant to lift each other up with our words:
Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. —Eph 4:29
Where we go wrong is often on the receiving end.
I don’t know if it’s because we are receiving the approval from the person, rather than God who has given us the gift/talent/ability… or whether perhaps it’s because we’re receiving the approval for something that is temporary, as opposed to eternal; it will fade. Whatever the reason, when we find our value in anything other than being a loved, wanted, adopted, redeemed, cherished Child of God—his “masterpiece“—then we will always be thirsty again.
Remember those words of Jesus?
Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life. —John 4:14
I just wonder if this need for approval (that is fed temporarily in many ways by other Image Bearers) is really just the evidence for our connection portal?
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. —John 15:4-5
Perhaps the great influence “approval” has on all of us is a reminder to us that we need… him. “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Those are strong words. Nothing? Nothing. We will fight and claw and scrape for any scraps of approval we can get to feel “connected” to our source of life, but if we’re not connected to The source of Life…
And we end up fat, wasted, demoralized, broken, and all sorts of other kinds of hurt.
Because our Approval Meter is pointed in the wrong direction.
We are adopted children of the king (Ephesians 1, Galatians 4). We are made for greatness (Ephesians 2). He thinks we are worth dying for (Romans 5). Dying for.
Those are not just words. They are the approval we seek, crave, need… and already have.
Our value is set by the one who is above and before and over all things. If you believe that he exists, and that he rewards all those who sincerely seek him… do. And then bask in the never-ending flow of his “approval” as you remain connected to the vine, to him.