Coughs. There is the sound of uncomfortable shifting of folding chairs on cold tiling. Everyone looks around, wondering what brings these people here. Finally, one stands …
“My name is Laura, and I’m addicted to pleasing other people.”
I tried to deny it, but it came to the point when it was unavoidable. I had to admit I had a problem. I was a perpetual people pleaser, an addict to the pleasure I could bring others. Nothing meant more to me than the approval of those around me. I suffered with the complete inability to say no to any and all offers or requests from people, in every situation. By doing these things and sacrificing myself, I thought I was doing what God wanted. I mean I was always on call for anyone; I did everything available at the church. I was a regular service machine. Why was I not satisfied?
So I started to question: just who was my service for?
The answer was simple. I was caught in a cycle of pride. Sure I masked it with the sincere desire to want to help everyone, but when it really came down to it, I was in the service for myself. I liked the attention of being the “reliable” one, the one you wanted to turn to when crises arose. I liked the compliments, the admiring glances. Everyone thought I had it all together and there was nothing more important to me than keeping the respect and admiration of the general population.
But the truth behind the curtain was that I was far from having it in any semblance of together. My service kept me out each night and I spent so much time being “seen” at church functions that I was ignoring my health, my home life and the most ominous of all, my schoolwork. I was simply not completing things I needed to get done. My room, like my life, was a mess. I wasn’t getting any of my schoolwork done. I was not taking care of my body. I had not seen my family all together in weeks. I had become a martyr to my vain ambition, a slave to my own selfish pride. While trying to serve God, I had actually rendered myself useless to His cause.
However prideful I had become, thankfully, I still had faith in God. One afternoon, God revealed the person behind the mask. For the first time in months I saw myself for who I really was and what I had been trying to become. Right there I was in the words of Paul, Galatians 1:10, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Paul made his point. All this time I thought I had been serving God, when truly I had been seeking to serve man and win his approval. By putting too much of my needs and priorities on the backburner, I had actually been dishonoring God.
I became distracted because I was not trusting that God knew what He was doing. I did not pay attention to the detail or bother to notice that our almighty God was in everything, even the small stuff our days are made of. I did not want to be in a classroom, I wanted to be out in the field, winning souls, fighting spiritual battles. Surely this was more important to God than completing some silly degree. I knew He would provide what I needed, degree or no degree.
True, but God has me here, in the now for a purpose. The most seemingly mundane task can be an awesome opportunity to serve and glorify God. I will never know the beauty of what He has for me if I cannot complete what is in front of me today.
When I look at the day I have left behind me, I now have a different perspective. Have I done what the Father asked? I had been too scared before to rely on the approval of God, because I did not think I would get it. The rewards of men were instantaneous, I could bring a smile to their face, receive a card of gratitude. I never tired of hearing praise for one thing or another that I had completed. However, the moment in itself would eventually fade.
When I sought the approval of God, I finally gained a lasting sense of pride, but not like the pride I had before. It is a pride in God’s work through me, not my own achievements. Before I was not prepared for the realization that God, the perfect holy God, was proud of me! Since I had been unable to reach God, God came to me. Jesus said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.” I loved the thought that through Christ in me I can gain a lasting approval from someone who’s opinion of me really matters. I find satisfaction, not in my own strength or ability, but in the compete satisfaction of knowing I am with God.
Remember, we have not been called to complete every task set in front of us. Some things we are just not made to do. Do not do something just to have it seen, or to add it to your long list of accomplishments. By doing so you may be standing in the way of God’s plan for another person by occupying that position of service with a lukewarm heart. Even in all your good intentions you can bend over backwards and still never make everyone happy. In the end ask, what is more desirable to God, the amount of service, the type of service, or the heart of the giver? I believe God wants just us, all of us, all day, everyday.