My 21-month old son Miles has this hobby that he loves – he loves to spin anything and everything. It started when he was somewhere around 8 months old when he saw my husband spin one of his toys and ever since he’s been hooked; any object he can get his hands on he wants to try it out to see if it will spin and he’s mastered his craft - it is actually really cool to experience as his mom because it helps me to understand how he thinks, what he is interested in and passionate about even at this tender age. There is something else though that it has helped me to realize, which is that it’s an activity that he does to perform for his dad and I to seek our approval, he loves the accolades and the praise that he receives when we say “Whoa!” or “Great job spinning Miles!” and The Lord has used this to get my attention about how I perceive the importance of approval and what I will pass along to my son that will affect the way he perceives it as well.
I grew up the middle child and struggled with feelings of insecurity, being overshadowed, overlooked and not as important as my other siblings. I felt lost A LOT but even more than feeling lost, I felt invisible until I realized in my early adolescence that I could make my family laugh so I would perform for them all of the time - it was an outlet that I truly enjoyed because it warmed my heart and met a need to be seen, accepted and appreciated by the people that I loved the most. It also charted a course for me that created this false sense of perception on how to achieve love and acceptance from people. Well into my teenage years and young adult years I would continue to perform to gain approval, love and acceptance – in school, in friendships, in dating relationships – it became a part of my identity. The problem is that time after time, it left me feeling lost, invisible, unappreciated and unaccepted – all of the things that I was trying to avoid by presenting myself in a certain way in the first place.
But by the grace of God I am learning that my identity, my worth, my value and who approves of me is in Jesus Christ and Him alone and anyone He has called to be in my life will do the same without the need to be anyone or anything other than who He created me to be. Galatians 5:1 says “it is for freedom that Christ set us free. Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened by the yoke of slavery.” When I perform for others to gain their acceptance and approval, I am not abiding in the freedom granted me in Christ Jesus, instead I am pandering to the fleeting and indecisive definition of human love instead of resting in Christ’s perfect love and acceptance of me.
What to do now with my precious baby boy? I am on a mission to personify for him what perfect love through Jesus Christ looks like and that by His love and only His love he too will be made whole, affirmed and approved. This begins with me accepting God’s love as he sees fit to give it and accept that there is nothing I can do or not do to make Him love me anymore or any less, so I must in turn show Miles that there is nothing he can do or not do to make me love him anymore or any less. I love him because The Lord created me to and I am so compelled to the point that loving him is not a choice, I just do as easily as I breathe without giving it a second thought. That is how The Lord loves us as His children and NOTHING in this world can separate us from His love no matter how hard it tries – not even our brokenness and misguided perception of love.
So while I have no doubt that I’ll get great enjoyment out of the many tasks and talents Miles’ performs for me, it is my responsibility as his mother to make sure that he is clear that there is no “work” he can do to gain my acceptance and approval. I approve of him simply because he was gifted to me by the One who justified us both when He was crucified on The Cross – flaws and all.