My mind has been blank. Inspiration and cute quotes have seemingly escaped my brain space. I have been caught between striving for approval and learning to let go all at the same time. So I figured while I am blaring Coldplay in my ears, I would type out some of my thoughts and feelings on this age of approval.

The things that bother me most are things I can’t control… I can’t control stoplights or other drivers, so I get mad road rage. Or when someone calls me in the middle of my favorite song, and I am short with the person on the phone. I can’t control the weather, so I get bummed when it rains on my scheduled beach day. I can’t control other people’s responses to me, so I grade their comments inviting unnecessary stress into my life. Or other people’s thoughts and opinions, so I freak out when I think they could be negative towards me. At the center of this philosophy is me. Enter stage left, self-hatred which invites the need for approval in any capacity. Which could be a compliment, a random text message, or a friend request.

Common Struggle

The people pleaser in me has clung tightly to friendships that need boundaries. The obsessive traits in me have obliged me to be the prettiest, skinniest, and funniest girl. The controlling patterns I posses have caused me to be frustrated at anyone or everyone who threatens my plans. And the skeptic in me has been the coauthor of many negative narratives in my head. A torture chamber.

You’ve been there before… think about your Social Media feeds. That time you posted on your Instagram story and minutes later you’re on the lookout for one particular person or group of people to watch it. The picture you posted a year ago that he or she commented on and now you can’t even look at each other in public. Think of the person you were married to for 10-15 years and built a life with and now can’t even stomach a holiday together. The boss that you’re afraid of letting down… Think of the all the things you cannot control…. Pair those things with a horrible day at work and a torrential downpour of past experiences flooding your mind and you have a perfect set up for knots in your stomach.

How did we get here? People want to blame our generation and our need for instant gratification, sure that plays a part. But why is every generation young and old perpetually suffering from the constant need of approval. Why is everyone striving for the best business, best home, best degree, best body, best friendships, best dog, best church, best spouse, and best kids?

We’ve taken the gifts and opportunities presented to us and made them our muse. We’ve taken our hobbies to leverage comparison. We’ve taken our spouses and compared them to our fantasies. We’ve taken our friendships and made them our source of identity. We’ve taken our relationship with Jesus and made it a brand.

A Life for a Life

I would like to circle back to the center of all of these misinterpretations of life and relationships. Ourselves. Pride. Me at the center of every phrase. We are at the center of our own stories and everyone else is the supporting cast who needs to memorize their lines, show up on time, and do their jobs to make a good production in order to highlight the main character… us.

I love what Jesus said to his closest friends, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it.” (Mt. 16:24-25) Jesus spoke these words soon after his death and resurrection was predicted. Death on a cross was not even thought of to those who followed Him. Interestingly enough Jesus says the words “take up his cross”. The cross is ultimately a picture of Jesus giving up His life. He invites us to give up our lives to find it. So profound.

I would like to remind those of you who follow Jesus that He was 30 something years old. A man in his young thirties who did not spend his entire ministry trying to gain followers, sell out stadiums, have the best body, have the best wife, have the best kids, have the coolest brand, nor use His messages to leverage anything in return. Some would say He denied Himself. This denial was not in a self-deprecating way, but in a humble way. He set aside His will for the Father’s. Jesus goes on to say, “For what will benefit someone if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will anyone give in exchange for his life?” (Mt. 16:26) Jesus is empathetic here to those who are listening. He understands that to lose your life would be detrimental in exchange for the whole world and its riches. The only thing He suggests losing your life in exchange for is Him. Because He is abundant life.

We were taught most our adult Christian life that Jesus was the Sunday School answer. But I am here to implore you that He is the answer, always has been, always will be. Not everything has to be so complicated in our pursuit of Him and the life we think we should have with Him.

Striving for Arrival

Our tactics for approval to regain happiness, our striving for “arrival”, and our constant chasing of “our dreams” could be the exact end of our lives. Losing your life in exchange for one person’s validation, casual sex, panicked phone calls with friends to feel peace, and buying another animal or object to fill a void are not the answers. Another filter on Instagram, another like on our Facebook page, another Chevron wall to match a magazine cover, another diet to show our collarbones, another woman to have sex with when your wife is too busy and boring, we are losing our lives here.

Let’s lose our lives in exchange for His. Paul puts it pretty plainly, “I have been crucified {take up your cross} with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself (lost Himself) for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

We got it backwards. Don’t chase, you will lose your life. So, I suggest we lose our lives so we can gain His. His life is eternal. Joyful. His life is abundant. Complete, lacking nothing. His life is peaceful. His life is pure.

Notice He wasn’t talking to those who weren’t already following Him. He was talking to His disciples in Matthew 16. Many of us already believe Jesus Christ is our Savior and has saved us from sin and death. But what we fail to realize is we are dying to exchange our lives for the what the world has to offer. Exchange your life for His. I am talking to myself here. I am tired and ready to enter His rest.