Motivation, Validation, and What God Owes Us.
Updated: Apr 26, 2019
We Christians need to get honest about what really motivates us. If our culture and society are any indication, it isn't God (despite our insistence otherwise). It’s His power to grant us the things we want in life.
We all yearn for external validation and seeking it out isn't necessarily a bad thing. But it's important to be mindful of recognizing when that need seeps into our deeper motivations. It's normal to like attention and praise...it's affirming and solidifies our self-concept of being a "good person." But the question needs to be asked, “Would we do what we do if validation was off the table? Would we do it still, because it is the right thing to do (and if you're a Christian, because we know in our hearts it would please God?”)
Social media is around to stay, and I believe it has its place (though I personally don't utilize it, and more on that later) but there's something to be said for discretion. Let's do a little experiment.
Try this out with me: the next time you do something truly helpful/kind for someone else, don't tell anyone.
What happens? Does it drive you crazy that no one knows? How does it impact the rest of your day, if it at all?
For those of us who are Christians, there are additional layers to this. One, sharing about our good deeds reflects well on us and on Christianity in general, and two, doing good makes us feel like we're making deposits in our spiritual savings account and holding up our end of a spiritual agreement. What we don't talk about however, is that many of us have a secret desire...goal, even...is to cash it all out later when we're embarking on something really big or ahem, "God-sized."
Those big things are usually our dreams, and they are sacred to us. Because they are so sacred to us, we more often than not reason that God (or the universe) will take stock of our good behavior and bless us by enabling our dreams to come true. After all, it's not likely He'll forget all our good deeds. And isn't He the one who put our dreams inside of us in the first place? It would be wrong...a sin even...to not pursue our dreams. So pursue them we must. That's our job. God's job...if He is truly honorable and holds up His end...is to bring them to fruition.
But we never frame it that way. Not to others, not to God, and certainly not to ourselves.
If someone compliments us or encourages us in our pursuit of our God-sized journey, we thank them and inevitably code-switch to Christianese: we're "doing it all for God's glory" or just "seeking to bring glory to Him." And the rest of us eat it up, because for one, it sounds so humbling, but more importantly, because it validates our hope that the unspoken spiritual agreement is real and can be depended upon.
Seeing God bless others' dreams and endeavors confirms the hope that He'll do the same for us.
And in a way, it should. After all, that gal who's now an Instagram influencer with her own line of cosmetics isn't all that different from us, and is certainly "just as much of a sinner" as you and I. We just need to keep posting and praying, praying and posting, and months from now our one million plus followers will prove without a shadow of a doubt that we are indeed good and worthy.
Yet...YET...if we are going to consider the idea that that could very well happen for us, we should also seriously consider the idea that it could not happen...and that God would still be God regardless.
God is God. It is His joy...His pleasure...to bless us. BUT He also has already blessed us with more than we can fathom...and He does not owe us a single thing more.
That notion was revolutionary for me a few years back when I was on the brink of suicide.
It came to me suddenly, while I was in the john. (Most revolutionary things come to me while I'm indisposed, I don't know why.) The Question (to my utter shock) popped into my mind, "what do you feel I owe you?" To which I honestly replied, "I don't know...my dreams and desires?" It really was a question that I posed back to Him. But again, the Question came back, this time more directly, "what do I owe you?" And then instantly, I knew.
I am owed nothing.
I am the one who owes.
Yet all He has ever asked of me is friendship, and the love and trust that accompany it. But I, in the righteous indignation of my entitled, myopic youth, laid out terms that He never agreed to, and held Him to it.
I began that day to take stock of all that my life consisted of...the good and the bad. People, relationships, experiences...and recognized that they were all opportunities for either learning or celebration. Even the physical assault I endured in college proved to be a huge growing experience for me...one that simultaneously opened my eyes and enlarged my heart to others who have already or may in the future experience the same.
Until then, I had not deeply considered what it meant to be grateful. I had assumed (naturally) that as a good Christian girl I already was grateful. But gratitude has a way of showing up (or not) on your countenance, in your interactions, in the way you live and engage with others...or don't.
God does not owe me anything, but boy am I thankful for what He has already given me...and so grateful He chooses to bless me still, not because I deserve it, but just because He is good and because He loves me so.
One more thing...
Did you know that God calls us...you...His Beloved?
There's no validation deeper than that.