Wednesday, 26 September 2012 17:16

Do I Worship My Own Approval?

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When a counseling intern sits down to write a blog that he/she knows is going to be published on a website that supervisors will read, clients might read, and potential clients might stumble across, all kinds of thoughts go through the head of that intern.  Is my writing going to be doctrinally accurate? Is it going to be inspiring? Is it going to be helpful?  Will what I write make sense?  Will it make me look like a spiritual first grader?  Do I have anything to say that has not already been said?  Will it bring glory to God? 


Taking my cues from Alcoholic Anonymous literature, I decided that my best bet is to stick to writing about where I have experience, strength, and hope.  Maybe I will sound more spiritual if I say that I am going to aim to “comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” from 2 Corinthians 1:4.  How about the radical thought that others struggle with the same things I struggle with and what God teaches me might also be helpful to them?


It rocked my boat when I began to realize the fundamental differences between secular counseling and biblical counseling.  Some of the mechanics might be the same but the basic worldview about mankind and what makes him do what he does is very different.   The most personally disturbing, yet life-changing truth that I have had to embrace is that I am guilty at times of the worship of idols just like the Israelites in the Old Testament and believers in Acts and the letters of Paul and John. 


We are not talking the sit-on-the-shelf or bow-down-in-a-temple kind of idol, but the kind that Americans are most likely to worship.  They would be easy to see if they all looked like flashy cars, designer clothing, or big, fancy houses with well-manicured lawns. But what if they are even more subtle than that and are even the things that we have been encouraged to pursue all of our lives? 


I am talking about the idols of respect, security, power, control, busyness, perfectionism, acceptance, pleasure, comfort, or approval. What happens in our lives when the desire for these things eclipse the desire for God? What is a girl to do when she realizes that her life has been built around gaining at least one of them?


Since I began this blog with the thought I would share only out of my experience, strength, and hope, I must stay true and share my story.  The idol that has often had my heart has been the idol of approval.  We most often translate this as “approval of others” and that has certainly been part of my equation.  Regardless of the situation that initiated my worship of approval, it has turned on me and caused much of my misery during my teen and adult years.  It is very easy to blame the rejection or unrealistic demands of others for my insatiable desire for approval but alas, that is not the case!  While my past may have not always been ideal, it was (and is) my own choice to worship what I worship.  No one chooses that for me. 


So how does this work out in real life?  Every thought, decision, and action is tainted with the idea of “what will others think” or “if I do this, will I still have their approval”?  I even have that thought as I type this.  What will you think of me, reading this?


In the last few weeks, God has taken me down another road.  I was shocked and dismayed at my reaction when I thought I had done less than a stellar job at something that I thought I should have done well.  I asked the Lord about it and He brought me to realize that I also worshipped my own approval.  I have set high standards for myself in several areas and when I don’t measure up to them, I am disappointed. 


Years ago when I read “The Search for Significance” by Robert McGee, I first encountered the problem that my heart had concerning this idol.  When I read the lie that he exposed, “I must have the approval of certain others in order to feel good about myself”, I raised my hand and said “That is me”. That was my first clue that I had a worship disorder.  But that was not enough.   I could see the stronghold that approval had on me but not what to do about it.  My motives were the worst part of all.  I wanted to stop needing others approval because of how it made me feel, not because God alone deserves to be worshipped.  What if that “certain other” includes myself? Is it possible that I have to have my own approval, or that I worship it more than God and His approval?


Why do I want to stop worshipping those idols that have been a part of the fabric of my life and have damaged relationships, wasted time, and stolen my joy?  Do I want to change because it will make my life better or for the glory of God?  So that He will be seen and known or so I will look better and people will like me?


I hope that someday I will have all the right actions, reactions, motives, and desires but since that is not likely until heaven, I must rest in the fact that Jesus paid for all my sin, misplaced worship, selfish desires, and even attempts to use Him for my own ends.  The writer of Hebrews has encouraged me in chapter ten when he writes, “But when this priest (Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”  He has made perfect those of us who are being made holy.  In my experience, with the weakness of my flesh, this gives me strength and hope. I have His approval because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross.  A need for mine and other’s approval is a cheap substitute for what He has given me in Jesus. As I focus on Him instead of my self-centered idolatry, the idols I worship pale in comparison to Him and lose their grip on my affections.  Praise God!

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Kathy Haecker

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