BY IMAN HALL
I used to thrive on knowing what people needed me to do. If I could just know what someone expected of me, then they would never have a bad thought about me. Being someone who feeds off of the approval of others has led me to dark places. Whenever I found that I couldn’t please someone, my world shattered; I would overthink every word and every action in order to discover what I may have done wrong. It’s a terrible place to be, and it was a reflection of how I viewed God.
Over the years I have had moments when I recognized this flaw in myself. I knew that God didn’t expect me to be perfect and do all the “right” things at the right time. But I esteemed my own expectations of myself higher than God’s expectations, so I never sought change. That is, until this year, when I learned the beauty of abiding.
The act of abiding in Christ is something I hear about in the American church every few years. I’ve heard sermons from various pastors on it, and I’ve read devotionals about it. But the importance of abiding didn’t hit me until I ran out of grace for myself. This year I realized that I was not going to remain mentally or emotionally healthy if my reason for doing things was to please people (because it’s impossible). So I did only what I could do - I gave up. My mind was over-burdened, so I stopped caring about the expectations of others. My heart was heavy, so I stopped striving to please people in order to maintain a relationship with them.
At first, it was like I had poured out a glass of dirty water. It was nice that the dirt was gone, but now the glass was empty. Then I realized that something pure needed to fill the cup back up again. If I didn’t soon choose what would fill it back up, I knew the dirty water would find its way back. So I chose to fill my cup with truth and abide in it.
To abide means to remain. Daily I have to learn and relearn what this looks like in my life. Ultimately, it means that I choose to believe in what God says about me because He is perfect and everything He says is the truth. The identity and approval He gives me has nothing to do with met expectations or doing things perfectly (or at all!). I am able to be free from the chains of people-pleasing because of what Jesus did on the Cross for me. When I choose to see myself the way God sees me, it allows me to abide in his 100% unearned love. When I let His truth fill my cup, I am reminded of who I am and who God is.