Words that are like rain on dry soil

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Valued? Rejected?

Yesterday, mid-afternoon, my phone notified me of a message. Opening it, I read a paragraph from someone commenting about how this daily blog was useful in her efforts to share the Christian life with her neighbors. Her note touched my heart because it was affirming, encouraging. Words like that are like rain, bringing fresh life and renewed commitment.  I have my critics, too. Not too long ago, a man pointed out what he thought was wrong in the work I do and added dire predictions of failure before walking out of my life. Even the memory of that conversation is painful!

Is it natural to desire affirmation? I think so.
Watch a toddler respond to her parents smiles and claps.
Observe a child around the age of 8 trying to fit into his class, carefully noting the style of the kid that everybody ‘loves.’
You and I do on our social media, don’t we? Who posts a picture of themselves straight of bed, with hair a mess, eyes still sleepy, in old ragged pajamas?  You are smiling because you know it’s true.

We screen our image on Facebook putting up pictures of ourselves surrounded by smiling faces, when we are looking our best. Is that pride? In a way it is, but it also is just how we have learned to look for the affirmation of others.  But it is a dangerous thing to validate ourselves based on reactions, to believe ourselves a person of value only when we are getting high grades, applause, or encouraging notes via Messenger! That can take us down a road where we become actors, doing things that are not authentic, or even self-destructive in desperate pleas for love.  And you know, as I do, that there will always be someone who does what we do better, someone who appears to enjoy more friends, someone who is more popular.

In our Christian experience, our primary approval comes not from others, but from God.
Paul wrote to his critics in the church of Corinth, people he had brought to Christ who were being bamboozled by preachers who were smooth talkers with big stories. The apostle reminds those people that he is steadied by something other than their opinion of him. “Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2 Corinthians 3:1-3, NIV)  He sees the work that God has done and it is the only letter of reference he needs!

 Was Paul being arrogant? Not at all. Self-affirmation, born of our own pride or arrogance blinds us to the truth about ourselves and life. That is not what he is doing. He knows that he gave his best to them, knows that Christ worked through him, and the results speak for themselves about the value of his work. Further on in his letter, chapter 4, Paul states that he refuses to twist God’s Word to serve his own purposes, that he will not deceive or manipulate just to gain approval.  Then, he writes these amazing words that should steady us all as we serve God. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7, NIV) What freedom is found in knowing that God, the Holy Spirit, lives in us – weak and ordinary as we might be – and we become displays of His glory!

In another passage he reflects on his painful memories and his present peace, one forgiven by grace, the other empowered by the Spirit. “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10, NIV)

Has rejection hurt you?
Are you trying to erase the effect of a parent’s hurtful words spoken decades ago?
Are you trying to overcome that terrible pain that came when you were dismissed, belittled, or ignored?

Know this – The One who knows you best, loves you most!  There is forgiveness for your failures, there is strength for this day, and there is the promise of a reward that will come from the One who sees you all the way to your heart, who sets every action in the context of your entire life. Amazing, isn’t that?

Here is the word from the Word. Jesus says,  “I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love. “I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature.” (John 15:9-11, The Message)  Who needs more affirmation than that?

________________________

How He Loves

(worship at this link)

He is jealous for me loves like a hurricane
I am a tree bending beneath
The weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden I am unaware of
These afflictions eclipsed by glory
I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me

Oh how He loves us so
Oh how He loves us
How He loves us so

(Yeah) He loves us
Oh how He loves us
Oh how He loves us
Oh how He loves

We are His portion and He is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If grace is an ocean we’re all sinking
So Heaven meets earth
Like a sloppy wet kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way that

(Yeah) He loves us
Oh how He loves us
Oh how He loves us
Oh how He loves

John Mark McMillan© 2005 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (Integrity Music [DC Cook]))

CCLI License # 810055

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