I long deeply for affirmation. Like at a level of need. Does this make me weak? I was out jogging this morning and after stopping the run app I was using the familiar voice of actor Kevin Hart congratulated me! No joke. He told me, “Your mama would be proud!” This audio recording, shared over headphones, via my Nike run app interrupted the thought-provoking interview of a pastor I was listening to while running. The content of the interview resonated with my current job planting a church with a team that has formed in the Orlando area.
For us, this endeavor required a move across country and a new season and role in ministry. I’m consumed at times with reflective anticipation as what will be is still forming what it will require of me is still unfolding.
Back to my opening sentence. I long deeply for affirmation. The fact that I felt a sensation of affirmation when Kevin Hart’s voice congratulated me for the efforts of my workout provided an eerie reminder of this fact.
So, come on though, it’s not just me, right? We all need to hear the voice of affirmation in our lives. Maybe some of us feel loved through words of affirmation more than others do but I don’t believe any of us are free from this desire.
I thought about a scene in the Gospels where Jesus is baptized and God’s voice is heard from heaven.
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Let that sink in for a moment. Jesus is just entering into the public phase of his ministry. In the following few years he will build a movement through the lives of a group of followers that will change the course of human history forever.
In the following days he will be challenged and tempted in the most profound ways (read Matthew 4). In this moment, though, he receives clear, miraculous, words of affirmation from his Father in Heaven. Is it possible that the power of this affirmation from God provided some of Jesus’ endurance to suffer temptation in the painful desert experience which followed? I sure think so.
We too need affirmation. Another way to put this, as shame researcher and author Brene Brown writes about it, is that we long to feel worthy of love and acceptance. Shame leads us to feel unworthy of such.
There are two parts to God’s word spoken to Jesus: You are my beloved son. I am well pleased with you. Let me take the step to say that these are two beliefs that will change your life as well: You are God’s beloved son or daughter. He is well pleased with you. To be honest, I more readily receive the first than the second.
I more readily believe that God loves me deeply because I can attribute this more easily to his regardless of me. The second? I screw up so much that I have a hard time thinking God is pleased with me. Sure he loves me, but he’s probably disappointed with me most of the time.
But what if? What if God lovingly affirms the small steps of sanctification (becoming more like him) that I’ve experienced over the years? What if he wants me to feel his pleasure with the ways, even so imperfectly, that he has helped me to love better or serve more readily, or trust him more? If I let myself hear both parts of this statement, I feel profoundly secure, standing upon a foundation of God’s goodness, grace, and steadfast love.
Are you chasing after affirmation that whatever you’re throwing you life into will never be able to provide? Your parents words won’t be enough. The size of your house or paycheck or savings account will never be enough proof of your value. The likes and accolades of friends or followers will never provide what you’re looking for. There is one voice that has the power to provide you with a rock-solid foundation of affirmation. Are you listening to Him?