“For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”” Zephaniah 3:17 NLT
At age four, the worst thing in the world was to see a disapproving frown on my father’s face when I didn’t live up to his expectations. Because his approval was so important, I became an obedient, compliant child, constantly trying to be “good enough” to earn his approval.
As I grew up, I began to seek the approval of others I considered to be important. I remember a particular instance when I was 14. A missionary friend that I looked up to invited me to travel to a camp with her to be a junior counsellor for a week I felt so grown up, yet inside I was still that little attention/approval seeking kid. During our recreation time in the pool, I vied for her attention just like all our younger campers. “Look at me! I can do a handstand!” And I almost knocked her over in the process. Instead of the smile I craved, I got a reproving look and a lecture. “You’re supposed to be an example for these kids!”
Of course, that need for approval and acceptance seeped over into my spiritual life as well. I found myself trying to “buy” God’s approval by constantly doing things I thought would please him. I couldn’t seem to do enough or be good enough, no matter what I did. And because of that, I suffered from burn out many times.
Many years ago, a friend gave me a picture of Christ that changed the way I saw Him in my mind. His hair was wind-blown, and he was wearing a welcoming grin on his face. His eyes crinkled with laugh lines in the corners. I loved that picture because for the first time, I could imagine him smiling at me – just wanting to be with me because he loved me, not because of anything I could do for him.
I need to walk with a God who smiles – One who loves me so much that he will teach me how to live, forgive me when I’m in the wrong, delight in me, calm my fears and rejoice over me with singing – not because of what I can do for him, but because he chooses to.
Thank you Lord, for being a God who smiles! Amen.