I love signs. Something about the bright colors, or the shapes, or even the information…something has always attracted me to them. I love to photograph quirky and funny signs. But my love affair was exposed.
My parents house has a front door which opens to a hallway and then an open-roofed atrium. One fateful day my senior year of high school, I opened the door and my heart sunk to depths rarely plumbed. I WAS BUSTED! “I’m dead!” I thought.
Lining both walls of the hall of the atrium were signs—a dozen or so. STOP. DIP. YIELD. 25 MPH. I knew exactly where they came from. I knew because I hid them somewhere…and my dad found them. I was busted.
Carefully hidden under the carpet in the back of my parent’s VW bus, I thought they would be safe until I could find some place for them. Only I didn’t know where on earth to stash 13 signs I had stolen from the streets of my home town. It’s not like I could have nonchalantly put them up in my room.
Funny thing about signs is they are huge. When you are driving by at high speed you have no concept of their size. They need to be big in order to be seen. Most of these signs were about three feet wide. Too big to be subtle about.
This love affair begged to be exposed.
And exposed I was.
I expected a bigger reaction from my dad. There was no hiding from the fact that I lifted all those signs. He told me simply, “go take them back to where they need to go.” I don’t even remember being grounded. Maybe being exposed and humiliated was enough. I never stole another sign.
Sometimes you fall in love with the wrong person. Sometimes you get enamored with the wrong things. My love for signs, so much so that I started stealing them, actually gave me no benefit. It wasn’t a love that gave anything back. In fact, it probably stole from me.
Addictions do this: they steal from you and they give you nothing in return. An addiction to people’s approval is similar. When we crave people’s approval, we in essence start living like if we don’t get the approval we seek, our heart will be crushed. Our significance and meaning becomes indelibly linked to what people think of us.
That’s a hard weight to live with.
I’ve been around people where I have been so concerned with their feelings toward me that my own happiness was linked to their moment-by-moment opinion of me. I felt hog tied. I needed extended time away from that relationship in order to get perspective and work through why I was so consumed with that person’s approval. Soul searching work for sure.
A quote by rapper Lecrae gives quick insight to the weight of people’s approval when he said, “If you live for people’s acceptance you will die from their rejection.”
Die?…really? Maybe. So crushed that you are debilitated. More likely. It is debilitating to have your own happiness linked to what others think of you. I literally thought, “I can only be happy if this person is happy with me.” And I became a slave to their opinion. It was stealing my freedom to be me.
Another source of wisdom gives a complimentary perspective, “The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that.” (Proverbs 29:25, The Message)
How does trusting in God protect you from fear of human opinion? It has taken me a long time to internalize that God’s love and attitude toward me never changes. He is a consistent, caring, attentive Father who always invites me back into relational intimacy. I turn my back on God when I choose selfishness, but He never turns His back on me. Knowing His stance toward me never changes helps me grow in the certainty that I am loved no matter what I do or say. When that security grows inside me I no longer think that God has some stink-eyed, finger pointing opinion of me.
I grow in actually FEELING loved. And I grow in actually knowing that if He loves me then it doesn’t matter what other people think of me. Furthermore, my emotions don’t swing as high and low depending on what people say or do around me. Security has been built on an unchanging nature of the Father’s love toward me. It is a freeing love. That is why I have often said that I am deeply loved and it has changed my life.
This is a love affair that gives back. It is a soul-building love that creates security and hope in me that doesn’t sway with my performance.
Stealing signs always left me wondering when I would be found out and what the punishment would be if I was exposed. It was a love affair that constantly eroded security…constantly left me wondering where I stood.
God’s love isn’t that way. I’ve had to learn over years that His love doesn’t change. I’ve had to grow in really believing it when my knee-jerk feeling is not think it possible. His love is consistent and His face toward me is always that of a loving Father (who sometimes I’m sure gets disappointed with my bad choices) who invites me back to talk about it but never with a scornful look.
I truly believe this is the best love affair worth investing into. It doesn’t steal from me but gives to me. It doesn’t enslave me but gives me freedom. It doesn’t crush me but gives life. It doesn’t reject me but accepts me fully. And I don’t have to steal anything in order to get it. It’s a free gift. If you’ll take it.