“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery”
My mom will still tell you I was the best little four-year-old ballerina in my class. I knew every step in our recital routine perfectly.
Performance night arrived and I was decked out in my ballet outfit and felt super fancy with my parasol.
So, I watched her. She stepped. I stepped. She twirled. I twirled She lifted her pretend parasol up. I lifted up my prop, as well.
I thought it was odd that she was also frantically shaking her head no and making strange motions with her hands in between each move. Then I noticed that all the other girls were one step behind me and the teacher, and I was mortified on their behalf.
They were all doing it wrong! An entire stage full of tiny ballerinas, and I was the only one doing the routine correctly! Could they not see the teacher shaking her head at them and telling them what to do?
Determined to obey the instructor, I dogmatically refused to match my steps to the other girls in my class. After all, who was most likely to be right—the teacher or a dozen four-year-old girls?
What I didn’t realize was that the teacher had been one step ahead of the routine the whole time. She was showing us the move that was coming next, not the step we were actually on. So I, in all my stubbornness, had been one step ahead of the actual routine for the entire performance.
That, my friends, was the end of my very promising ballet career.
On the other hand, I’ve spent years of my life worrying about what the audience thinks of me and fearing what will happen if I make a mistake and mis-step. Not that my ballet fiasco is to blame for that, but it’s there nonetheless.
It’s the very real straightjacket of people-pleasing.
In her book, Stumbling Into Grace, Lisa Harper writes, “Jesus provides freedom, regardless of what’s been cramping our stories” (p. 19).
I don’t know what restricts you or binds you or has you so tied up that you miss out on the glorious freedom that Christ brings, but worrying about what other people think of me—well, that’s been my personal prison for a long time.
And even those of you who boldly announce all the time that, “I don’t care what other people think of me,” may deep down in the depths of your tender soul do just that. Maybe you desperately care about what other people think after all.
You want them to have a high opinion of you. You want them to agree that the choices you’ve made as a woman, as a wife, as a mom are the right ones. You want people to see you’re an awesome mom and you’re a great wife. You want them to be blind to your mistakes. You want them to buy into the persona you’ve created for yourself—that you’ve got it all together, that you’re smart, strong, capable, and surely superwoman in the flesh.
And our great fear, the thing that just rips us to pieces—is what happens if people realize we are . . . . not perfect.
And the thought that even when we’re doing the right thing or doing our best, some people won’t approve . . that’s devastating.
In Genesis 29, we read about a precious woman who longed with all her being to be good enough and to perform well enough to earn her husband’s love.
There wasn’t ever any doubt about it. Jacob’s “love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah” (Genesis 29:30).
My heart just breaks for the unloved Leah. So did God’s. “When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive” (Genesis 29:31) and in quick succession, she gives birth to three sons: Reuben, Simeon and Levi.
When each son was born, Leah revealed what was in her heart:
- “Surely my husband will love me now” (verse 32)
- “Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too” (verse 33)
- “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons” (verse 34)
She was buying her husband’s affection with babies. More particularly, the male sons that a man in Jacob’s time and culture prided himself on. Rachel may have been loved, but she remained barren for many years while Leah delivered son after son.
Still, Leah never once was able to perform well enough to earn Jacob’s love.
Eventually something clicked in Leah’s heart. After having four sons for a man who still didn’t love her, she finally declared at the birth of her fourth baby, “‘This time I will praise the LORD.‘ So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children” (Genesis 29:35).
For one brief moment in her life, Leah threw off the crippling chains of trying to please a human being and flung her unhindered arms open wide in worship of God.
Because God cared for her immensely and unconditionally. God thought she was beautiful. God thought she was worthy of notice. God lavished on her the gift of four healthy sons.
And that, for the moment, was enough.
Is it enough for you to know that God loves you? Is it enough to know that you are obeying His instructions?
We people-pleasers can’t often escape from the binding fear of what others think about us in one magical moment. No, it’s a battle. It’s an active choice we make over and over to make pleasing God our supreme life passion rather than allowing the expectations of others to bind us hand and foot.
Paul wrote, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
Christ offers you freedom. Glorious freedom. So, stand firm in that. Stand confidently assured of your calling. Dance to the song He has given you and perform only for Him.
I’m excited to share with you one of my most favorite songs on the freedom that Christ brings. I hope you are blessed by it.
Hear the song here: http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=JM2C1MNU
Free by Ginny Owens
Turnin’ molehills into mountains,
Makin’ big deals out of small ones,
Bearing gifts as if they’re burdens,
This is how it’s been.
Fear of coming out of my shell,
Too many things I can’t do too well,
afraid I’ll try real hard, and I’ll fail–
This is how it’s been.
Till the day You pounded on my heart’s door,
And You shouted joyfully,
“You’re not a slave anymore!”
“You’re free to dance-
Forget about your two left feet
And you’re free to sing-even joyful noise is music to Me
You’re free to love,
‘Cause I’ve given you My love
and it’s made you free
My mind finds hard to believe
That You became humanity and changed the course of history,
Because You loved me so.
And my heart cannot understand
Why You’d accept me as I am,
But You say You’ve always had a plan,
And that’s all I need to know.
So when I am consumed by what the world will say,
it’s Then You’re singing to me, as You remove my chains-
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2011 Heather King