So who do you look to for gold stars, applause, affirmation?
I have to admit that I have a habit of wanting to collect "gold stars". I could probably put to use all those reward/consequence charts I create for my kids and use them for me! You see whenever I do something, such as clean the house, make lunch or dinner, grocery shop, get the Christmas cards out on time, make our family video, get the hot-lunch order in on time, make it to the gym and actually work out – I would really like a "gold star". I want my effort and sacrifice to be recognized, applauded, appreciated by someone – aka my husband. I am blessed to have married an amazing man and he does compliment me, encourage me and thank me. The reality is that I do these things because I either need to or I want to; so what are the roots of these "gold stars"?
Our sermon at church today was titled "Living Without the Applause". Our pastor reminded us that in Matthew 6, Jesus commands us to to do good deeds for the Father, not for earthly rewards or "gold stars" for those rewards will only be recognized here on earth. The things we do silently, anonymously for the glory of the Kingdom will be recognized and rewarded by the Father. The Orthodox church identifies the 8th Deadly Sin as "vainglory" – the excessive pride in one's achievements. Having walked the road of depression and anxiety I can clearly see why it is identified as a deadly sin.
Looking back, my fall into the darkness of depression and anxiety was partly because of vainglory. I really only felt worthy when I was being complimented, rewarded, recognized, or singled-out. I needed the praise of others to sustain myself. My self-esteem had plummeted so low that I no longer could praise myself, so I became dependent on the praise of others. Having no relationship with Jesus, I was completely lost.
When my daughter was born everyone – my parents, relatives, my doctor, friends and even strangers – were telling me that I was a "natural" mom. Oh how those comments fueled me. However, when our son was born those comments simply did not come. Not getting the applause, the admiration made me feel like an incompetent mother-of-two. And since at that point my primary role was "mother", it was incredibly heartbreaking. My son was a challenging infant who cried for the greater part of two years and he was certainly a mischievous and busy toddler. During those years I filled my mind and heart with thoughts about how horrible of a mother I was. As my own self-worth as a mother deteriorated, it spread into others areas of my life until I felt like nothing but a failure.
Now it would be easy to say, "oh if only people would have encouraged me I would never have fallen into the darkness of mental illness". But I so fully believe in God's plan for me that I see that silence and eventual fall as the blessing that brought me to Jesus.
Learning to live for God and not for the applause has been part of the journey that Jesus and I have walked together as we climbed the mountain of healing. In my darkest hour, I came to the realization that I could no longer live for something I have no control over. I could not be dependent on the words and actions of others – for I could not control how others felt or acted. There were only two things I could depend on: myself and my God – and I could only depend on myself with the help of God. I could depend on our faithful Father. He never changes, His promises are always true, He is always in control."Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands"(Deuteronomy 7:9).
I now view my life, and in particular my role as mother as a true gift from God. And therefore, I want to please Him, glorify Him, make Him smile. I no longer need to hear that I'm a great mom or I did something wonderful from family or friends because I hear it from my Father. When we do things pleasing to God, we grow closer to Him – one of the greatest rewards the Father could give us.
God tells me I am doing good works by filling me with a sense of satisfaction, allowing me another day to be mom to the beautiful children He created for me, and allowing me a new glimpse into who He is. And those gifts are better than any earthly reward or gold star!
So who are you looking to for those gold stars? Do those gold stars fulfill you? Is pleasing this world really worth all your effort?