On a hot June evening my family drives to our college town, where David and I are excited to show the kids landmarks in their mom and dad’s history. Before strolling around the Oklahoma State campus, we stop at our favorite college hangout for lunch: Eskimo Joe’s. Over a plate piled high with chili cheese fries, my husband and I look at one another and grin as memories of those carefree dating years circle our table and stretch around town.
A short time later, however, my grin fades. I had high hopes of reconnecting with a longtime friend who lives in the same town, but after suggesting a flexible array of days and times to get together, I realize she doesn’t necessarily feel the same excitement. With stammered out words, she shoots each possibility down. I give up and tell her I look forward to making it work another time, even as something in her tone told me it probably never will.
I stare at the computer screen, biting my thumbnail like I do every time I’m perplexed. I’d written a friend of mine several times, a friend with whom I enjoyed a close relationship and semi-regular communication. But now, I heard crickets in return. After repeated attempts to reach out and connect, all I saw were u-turn signs. I couldn’t deny it any longer: my friendship with this person changed.
And ya know, it’s hard for me to be okay with that.
It’s easy to return to 8th grade, the land of flourishing-one-minute and fizzling-the-next friendships. You can walk the school hallways as a grownup too, keenly aware that you’re more interested in being someone’s friend than she is in return. You cross your arms against the hurt as your pride gets a slap in the face. But that’s not the hard part. When you genuinely care about that friend and value her presence in your life, your heart takes a hit, too.
And for me, that’s still not the worst of it.
I have a history of tying together my approval rating with what others think of me, and the ribbons holding them together are thoughts like if this person got to know me and is no longer all that crazy about me, then there must be a good reason. And if she sees it, other people will too.
And then the ultimate piggyback thought:
That good reason must be this: something is wrong with me.
I give myself an F for friendship, an F for me. Approval denied.
Oh how I need a u-turn on this kind of thinking, because here’s the straight up truth: I am pre-approved by the One Who wove me together and loves me forever. The state of my relationships can’t change my approval rating. While I know this is true, the words below help move the message from my head to my heart:
When believers come to know God’s love, heart-deep, we are compelled to live into that love, life-deep. To be preapproved means this: we love from our approval, not for our approval. We love without expecting anything in return.
“Go!” God tells us, “You are no longer tied down by fears of rejection or disapproval or popular opinion. If you forget how much I love you…Turn back to Me, and I will remind you how much you are treasured.”
~ Jennifer Dukes Lee, Love Idol
There is freedom in replacing these fears, in believing God means what He says. There is freedom in throwing your shoulders back, lifting your eyes to that daughter, sister, or friend, and loving her where she is today, not where you wish she was.
You and I both know not everyone is going to dig our action. And if we’re honest, we admit we sometimes don’t dig theirs. Seasons change, we change, and even folks who were once close to us may not stay that way. What makes a friendship fit today won’t necessarily make it fit forever.
But that IS okay. Because when life demands relationship changes, nothing changes your approval rating. Your Creator is crazy about you.
So feel free, preapproved daughter, to go crazy loving on others.
If you liked the passage above from Jennifer’s book, then you’ll want to run not walk to preorder Love Idol: Letting go of your need for approval – and seeing yourself through God’s eyes right now. It arrives in bookstores April 1st. I’ve read it, and it has healed more in this approval-addict’s heart than any other book I’ve read in a long, long time. 5 exuberant stars for this one!