- Who Loves Ya, Baby?
If you asked my family about how I was from about four-years-old on, you’d get some good stories, eye rolls, and “Ashley!”s. They’d say I blossomed again as I ended high school, and for what it’s worth, they wouldn’t trade those in-between years – at least for the opportunity to see me live them again now as a Mother myself.
Despite the good, the bad, and the certainly ugly moments of my own childhood, I have always been hyper self confident (to a fault). I don’t think I have ever doubted I could do something if I wanted to do it or that people wouldn’t love me (that sounds arrogant, but I already warned you it was ‘to a fault’). I’ve gotten the large majority of jobs I’ve wanted, I’ve helped materialize goals of ours by picking up side jobs, and I have many more goals ahead that don’t intimidate me because of my track record in doing well at getting stuff done (in a sea of track records of forgetting birthdays, being 5 minutes late to everything, and not resting well). I’m far from perfect, but I have a decent understanding of what I’m good at – and an even clearer understanding of what I’m really bad at.
And what I’m bad at is an ever-present thorn in my side. That tension between who I am and where I’m going grows and grows as I begin to look at the sidelines for approval and my value begins to teeter-totter on the opinions of others. Sometimes, my cheering squad is full and sometimes the stands of my story are painfully empty and quiet. This year was met with a little bit of both – my faithful Fan Club and those who couldn’t see my wins no matter how many points I put on the scoreboard – and this post is about what they both taught me.
You will never win at loving people when winning someone’s love is your ultimate goal. With those who require more effort for their approval, the harder you try, the more you fail. For every step you take towards a person – who is unwilling to be wrong or give you the space to be human or love you without strings – when your identity is based on their opinion of you, you can easily walk away from the person that God’s elevating you to be. It’s not as simple as ‘losing yourself’ in some spiritual discipline- it’s the you you try to be to compensate for the you that doesn’t win their approval instead of you that you could be if you let God rule and reign over your life. I found myself stuck in that conundrum time and time again, and finding my security and score for the day based on the need for someone’s approval, acknowledgement or understanding of my actions was crippling – for both of us.
On the other hand, I realized that you can’t live to make the people who delight in you happy either. For years, I’ve been conditioned and pleased to make decisions that make my family happy because I love them and they love me unconditionally. Making them happy wasn’t out of a need to win them over, but a desire to make them even happier within their happiness and love for me. I thank God that foundationally I rarely doubt the love of God because my family has never made me feel that I could outrun or compromise their love for me – that is truly a gift I take less and less for granted. But, I’ve come to terms that I do a lot of things that they don’t approve of and I’ve gotten more secure about them over time – from how Mike and I dated to moving to Boston to staying at home with our children – the list goes on and on. And God began to show me, in my fear of making a decision that was more likely than not going to not win everyone’s approval, that leading to this point, I have made a lot of God-ordained, hard, pretty dumb decisions because I wasn’t seeking someone’s official stamp of approval to do them and they have utterly impacted the trajectory of my life and my legacy for the significant better. The faithfulness of God is so obvious in hindsight, isn’t it?
The two polar ends of my belief spectrum rapidly flowed into one another in unhealthy ways. The reason I found people getting under my skin and felt the weight of my own disappointment to them was because my lifelong process of making most decisions to earn someone’s love and approval was no longer panning out like it had before. The rosy-colored glasses that my family had always seen me through didn’t apply to those who didn’t assume or hope for the best in me.
God began to remind me that I didn’t need to earn my love or worth to Him, and it is allowing me to love without the expectation to be loved and accepted back. In Christ, we are asked to meet someone where they are and to love them there and not to expect them to live and love exactly like us. In Christ, whatever He’s asking of us is for our good and the good of those around us. This is probably going to be a lifelong struggle for me and the tension from it weighs so heavy on my heart. What God began to teach me through my hip injury was what I believe to be a long line of ‘no quick fix’es as I push onward towards the Finish Line of life. As a friend encouraged me – I need to pray more. I need to not run from this and instead allow myself to be filled with the purposes for Christ that God has placed on my life alone. I need to fight the fear of being alone in _____. I need to learn to let go and embrace the people God has placed in my life – even, and perhaps especially, the hard ones that push me towards Christ head on.