He Punched the Care Out of Me!
For decades I went through this world looking for the approval of man, seeking awareness, affirmation and affection. I strolled around with hopes of being seen and loved. No bystander was immune to my desire for engagement. Like an expectant child, I wandered about looking for another to delight in me.
What I repeatedly found was the opposite. Instead of delight I found disgust. This isn’t a country western song, however, so let me show you how it’s the song of the Lord.
Jennifer wrote yesterday about my immunity to the incivility that greeted us in a meeting. What I want to say about this is that it didn’t come free of charge; on the contrary, it was very costly. I’ve spent years being bludgeoned by the response to my own expectations. When I’ve looked for a twinkle in the eye of the approval of man, what I’ve met has been the opposite. And why? Am I repulsive? No. Am I off-putting? Not by all appearances. So what is the reason for this negative visceral response? I am His!
Now I’m not saying, “People only hate me because I am a chosen one and they’re just jealous.” And I’m certainly not saying it’s a position I would’ve chosen. After all, I went looking for that twinkle of delight for years. I’m saying that my story’s Author is to blame!
Approval of Man, A Harlot and A Lover
And I’m in good company with a whore and a lover. The harlot is Gomer from the book of Hosea and the lover is the Shulamite maiden found in the Song of Songs. Each of them were annihilated into their position of being loved. Let me show you how.
Gomer was an outright whore for the affections and attention of her earthly lovers. She attributed to them her strength, sustenance, and supply. Hosea actually had to purchase her back from the slavery of her harlotry. Gomer’s name means “completion,” that is, the filling up of the measure of idolatry, or ripeness of wickedness. This reminds me of Matthew 23:32, where Christ says to the Pharisees, “Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt.” A ‘whoa’ statement for sure. Gomer, like us, goes running about chasing others to give her what she already had: a Husband who loved her. But she had to fill up the measure of her idolatry or come to the end of her path.
Therefore, this is what I will do: I will block her way with thorns; I will enclose her with a wall, so that she cannot find her paths. She will pursue her lovers but not catch them; she will seek them but not find them. Then she will think,” I will go back to my former husband, for then it was better for me than now.”
Hosea 2:6-7 HCSB
It was the Lord Himself who hedged her in with thorns. Thorns are sharp and piercing, kind of like the scorn, derision and disgust I’ve received when chasing love.
Then there’s the Shulamite maiden who was a true lover. She exclusively sought after her beloved and not other lovers, but her path was laden with the strictures of exclusivity. She had to be separated from all that would distract her, even herself, with her doubts and fears. And when she looked to another to show her the way to her beloved, they struck her.
The watchmen found me as they made their rounds in the city. They beat me, they bruised me; they took away my cloak, those watchmen of the walls!
Songs 5:7 NIV
The Lord’s jealousy is a fierce thing. His passion is not always soft, at times it’s violent. What I’ve learned in my life is that I cared more about what others thought than I cared for God’s pleasure. And what is the approval of man but a fleeting and fickle opinion? I worried and fretted about their perceptions rather than being concerned with His. I looked to others to affirm my person, and what I met was the Lord’s fire and love. I was pummeled rather than affirmed, struck rather than stroked.
Why would my loving God do this? Because to be wholly God’s you mustn’t pander or curry the approval of man. He beat the care out of me so I would have one allegiance and a single eye. You can’t be a lover of God or even His servant if you indulge man’s right of refusal.
Approval of man: I Don’t Care Anymore
At the meeting Jennifer described, I went in with a goal in mind, which I believe I got from God. My goal was met and it didn’t matter what spitballs were shot at me; I was a man with a mission. I didn’t need them to like me or care about me, because I was there for God. I was catering to His desire in the moment, and I didn’t care about the rest.
As I said earlier, this immunity didn’t come without a high cost. I have been a man who cared, yet I have become one who doesn’t. In this meeting wasn’t rude or entitled with these guys, I was just focused on my goal. By all appearances, you’d have thought I was the most pleasant person. I was simply there for Another and not myself. God has sufficiently beaten the care out of me, so I’m focused on His favor and His approval. May I maintain this focus in all my dealings! There I’d be utterly free, without compromise, and more faithful to my Beloved.
Am I now trying to win the favor and approval of men, or of God? Or am I seeking to please someone? If I were still trying to be popular with men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10 AMP