Personally, I've been feeling a little wiped out lately, and I think a lot of it has to do with the truths we will walk through today. I hope it leaves you feeling more encouraged and empowered to live a life of character that is driven by hope, acceptance, meaningful relationships, and intentional moments.
Perhaps I'm not the only person who has watched seemingly successful, attractive, pleasant, driven, well-spoken and well-meaning (even self-proclaimed "godly") people take a long hard plunge straight into the ground. I've also seen the pain from the fall change their lives and shake their relationships tremendously; and most of the time it doesn't seem to be for the good.
How does this happen to us and where does it start?
I think for many of us, it starts undetected the moment we learn that a false appearance gets us something we want; be it a gift or earthly treasure, a desired response of acceptance or approval, or even a new relationship altogether. We learn that by being good, fake, perfect, popular, cool or playing any "right" game will get us what we want or make us who we think we should be based on others opinions. We start to value this twisted desire over the truthful presentation of who we really are and who God designed and desires us to be.
The Bible says it like this... "Each person is tempted when they are dragged away and enticed by their own evil desire."- James 1:14.
I don't know about you but I know I have willingly been dragged away time and time again; sin always takes me farther than I want to go and keeps me longer than I plan to stay. The previous verse says "Do not be fooled, God does not tempt others to sin, nor can He Himself be tempted toward evil" and thus whatever a man sows he reaps.
I can remember stories I made up as far back as kindergarten and as near as yesterday; it may not be a "full-out lie" but even a twist or fabrication of the facts is the same thing; it's really any behavior or word spoken with the intention to make me look or feel better. It's stupid, or evil as James says, but yep, I still do it, and nope, I'm not proud! LIES/MASKS reap self-condemnation and emptiness.
Let's pretend for a moment that some of you do this too. And if you are similar to me, then you feed the evil mask monster by hiding your motives, weaknesses, habits, fears, agendas, confusion and pain by hoping that others will buy the image of confidence you are selling to the masses. Shoot, I mean even our recreation can become a driven effort to prove significance instead of a source of relaxation and rejuvination. Or am I seriously the only one who does this garbage? With this thought in mind, I invite you to truly ask yourself the same question that has been ruining me for the better:
What things have you said or done lately that seemed to provoke that desire for instant acceptance from yourself, others or even God? Now ask, Did you get what you wanted? And how did it make you feel? (Truthfully answering these questions is the first step on this new ladder we are intending to climb.)
For most of us this seeking approval pattern started in childhood, and these manfactured appearances are not easily broken, but there is hope for us my friends. I promise. Because above the surface of this performance-driven earth (that drains our spirits, minds and bodies) is a loving God who uses every life experience, good and bad, to renew our minds, give us hope, and shape us uniquely for His beautiful purpose.
The truth is that we all learned how to hide (we've been learning it since Genesis 3), but we can also learn how to be found, and to actually delight in true approval that is not dependent on the stories we tell, the changes we make, or the image we project.
If we begin to pursue God for true approval rather than worldly exaltation and acceptance, we will find ourselves on a very different path; indeed, we will find ourselves climbing the character ladder- the ladder of hope and divine acceptance- and every step will reveal the substance of our faith.
Enjoy the climb!