How to Find the Approval Your Heart was Made For (A November to Remember — 11.8.2014)

November 8, 2014 | 13 comments

Today’s Scripture — 11.8.2014

 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” ~ Matthew 25:21

How to Find the Approval Your Heart was Made For

My daughter and I stood at the starting line with numbers 566 and 567 safety-pinned to the fronts of our shirts.

We were excessively optimistic about the road race ahead of us.

And we weren’t the only ones. All around us, there was a palpable buzz of expectation as fidgety runners stretched and bounced.

A robin chirped. The sun warmed our backs.  I squeezed my daughter’s hand.

It was the perfect kind of spring day – the kind when everyone, even the spectators, ventured out-of-doors with short sleeves. The kind of day when your kid doesn’t give you an eye roll when you flash your trademark, overly enthusiastic mom grin.

“On your marks,” a growly man called out, raising his starter pistol in the air. “Get set.”

Boom! He pressed the trigger, and a puff of smoke rose from the barrel. In a blur, my daughter and I set out on the course, side by side, with only a few inches of pavement between us.

That’s how it went for a good mile, maybe two. We ran like mad, and a gentle breeze tangled with our hair.

But our bubble of optimism popped when the route veered out of town, onto the country roads. The gentle breeze morphed into a ferocious wind, whipping across the fields.

Runners passed us on both sides, apparently impervious.

We were still a half-mile from the end of our race, when my daughter squeaked out a breathless plea: “I don’t think I can do it.”

I knew the route, and I knew how close we were. “You can do it, girl! I believe in you! You. Can. Do. It.” (Though I wasn’t entirely sure if I could.)

Then, mercifully, we turned the last corner of the route. Up ahead, a white banner flapped over a spray-painted line on the street.

The finish!

“Look, Lydia!” I said between ragged breaths. “We’re really … going to … make it!

Lydia’s weariness magically lifted. The two of us felt weightless, like our shoes were three feet above the street, like we could fly.

I grabbed Lydia’s small hand. Tears burned the corners of my eyes.

“I’m so … proud of you,  …. honey! …. You did it!”

Lydia turned her head to me: “I’m proud … of you too … Mommy!”

Lydia had completely forgotten that, minutes earlier, she didn’t think she could take another step. Or that we’d been left in the dust of everyone on the course.

Because now? The end was in view.

It didn’t matter that that the loudest applause had already been offered. Or that the shiny medals hanging around other necks. It didn’t matter that we were last.

It mattered that we made it. 

In those last steps toward the finish line, it felt like the heavens burst open with a metaphor for life down here on planet earth.

The only race worth running — the only life worth living — is the one where everything else is counted as loss: every medal, every resume, every credential.  Life’s not about applause or mentions.

Life’s not about earning anyone’s love, but believing that you already are God’s beloved. 

Life’s  not about reputation, but redemption.

We have nothing to prove. For in Christ, we are already approved – preapproved.

Some of us? Some of us jump out of the starting blocks of life with grand plans to prove something to ourselves and to prove something to the world.

We’ve got plans for straight As, and better hair, and a smaller jean size, and a corner office with an engraved door plate. There’s nothing wrong with an “A” or an atta-girl every now and then, but a woman can get so busy keeping up with the Joneses, that she forgets to keep step with Jesus.

And suddenly, your life feels more like a competition than a communion. 

Look, you can try to outrun Jesus all you want, but Jesus’ love will never, ever run out. And if you’re in last place, remember who actually comes in first.

That morning, as my daughter and I neared the end, we could see the announcer on a flatbed trailer at the finish line.

That man is my earthly father.

Dad has presided over the finish line for years. Some of the runners show up with arms raised and fists pumping. Others limp their way to the end. A few fall to their knees. Some cry.

No matter how they get there, Dad wants all the runners to hear their names. He once told me that he would never leave the finish line until the last runner crossed.

My daughter and I couldn’t wait to hear our names. And now we were seconds away.

Dad was looking right at us. And I don’t think I’m imagining the sparkle in his eye. He lifted the microphone: “Way to go, Lydia Lee! You made it!” The crowd cheered for that fierce little runner.

Then I heard my father’s words for me:

“And that’s my daughter, Jennifer!”

I suppose the crowd applauded. I can’t be sure. All I remember were the words my father saved for me, his daughter. These were the words of a father who loved me before I took my first step, and who was waiting for me at the end, even if I limped across the finish line.

And I knew in that moment, that the best words of approval we will ever hear will come at the finish.

Friend, there really is a finish line. 

There really is a great crowd of witnesses, waiting. You can’t see them, but they are already cheering for you.

There really is a Father, waiting to welcome you. And He decided to love you before you took your first step. He decided to love you even before He made the world.

Believe that you are loved. Already.

In this life, you may never get the applause you hoped for. Someone else may end up with the medal you worked hard for. The crowds might remember your name, and then again? They might not.

But you will finish. And when that finish comes into view, you will run like mad, and the wind will whip through your hair, and you’ll forget how bad it hurt sometimes.

Because you can’t wait to cross over and hear the words you were created to hear at the finish, the PREapproval you were running for all along: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

This post is excerpted, in part, from a guest post I wrote a few months ago for my friend and word-sister Ann Voskamp. The story also appears in the epilogue of Love Idol. And it is a story that I’ve been taking with me on speaking events to retreats and conferences. The story reminds me what C.S. Lewis calls “the divine accolade.” The divine accolade is summed up in these words:   “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And those are the words we were made to hear, before time began.

This post is part of our month-long series, “A November to Remember: Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes.

How You Can Be a Part of This Movement:

1 – Print out the Scripture sheets. (Click here for printable versions.) Each of the 30 daily Scriptures are quoted in Love Idol, and each one ties back in some way to our identity in Christ. (You don’t have to read the book to participate in this study. But of course, you’re welcome to! 


2 – Find the passage assigned for today’s date.

3 – Consider how God is speaking to you. How does the verse help you remember who you really are, outside of all the cultural noise?

4 – Visit us on the blog, or the Love Idol movement page on Facebook, to share what the verse means to you.

5 – Share your insights on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or your blog, to add more soul to your scroll. #MoreSoulLessScroll 

 Tag me, so I can find you. (Or feel free to follow along silently! No social-media presence required.)

I’ll post my own response here on the blog every morning at 5 a.m. Sometimes, you’ll find a story, maybe a few short words, maybe a series of photos. That will happen every day, for all of November, God-willing.

Studies show that the best way to form a habit, is to NOT break the chain. Habits form if you keep at it, one day after the next after the next. After our 30 days, we may have created a new habit of Scripture before Scrolling – a habit that can take us into the Christmas season, and beyond.


Follow Along

If you want to follow along, visit us here every day. Consider subscribing to my blog by clicking here to get these reflections in your email inbox.

The Printables
(Download for printing from Google Drive)

Let this be the November that we remember who we really are: Loved. Preapproved. His.

Find all the posts in the November to Remember series by clicking here.  



by | November 8, 2014 | 13 comments


  1. Amy

    My absolute favorite thing you have written. I can’t read and re-member it enough times. Thank you, sweet sister.

    • dukeslee

      I think it’s also the favorite thing I’ve ever written. And I often tell this story during my talks. A great metaphor for what’s to come. Thanks for your encouragement, Amy.

  2. Emily

    I. love. this. I have tears in my eyes this morning! Just what I needed to hear. Thank you!!!

    • dukeslee

      Oh Emily … So grateful for you stopping by. You are so welcome!

  3. Holly Ailing

    This devotional spoke directly to me. It brought me a lot of comfort as I feel very weary right now. This month of devotionals is putting me on a different path. I committed to time with your devotionals in the morning. My time with the Lord has been later on in the day. But I’m finding a freshness in the mornings. Thank you for helping me get on a better path.

    • dukeslee

      Oh Holly…. I am so glad to hear this. I wish I could adequately tell you how much it means to hear that these morning devotions are an encouragement to people on the other side of the scree — people like you, who are a lot like me, hungry for more of God. I am sincerely grateful to have you on the journey.

  4. Jillie

    One of my favourites, Jennifer. Seeing the sweet, youthful face of Lydia, running her race. Am newly inspired to “Fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith.” “May we all lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…looking unto Jesus, Author and Finisher of our faith.” All these Scriptures today are so encouraging, spurring me on in my quest. I am grateful to God for using you, Jennifer, to speak to my wandering heart.

  5. Carla

    Thank you so very much for this! I NEEDED this today. I actually teach in a school southeast of Inwood 🙂 and my year is leaving me feel as a failure lately. I have much renewed faith to keep on going, for I am striving to serve my Lord always, in every way!

  6. Tarissa Helms

    Oh, I’m so glad you shared this again. Though I’ve read it twice before, for some reason the words hit me fresh this morning. I could hear the cloud of witnesses cheering me on and imagine what it will be like to cross the finish line and see my Father waiting on the other side, saying – and that’s my daughter, Tarissa! What a day that will be; what a hope we have in Him!

  7. Genia Brown Harrison

    Jennifer, I’ve committed to reading your November devotions each morning, and meditating/journaling on the scripture. I can’t tell you what a difference this has made in my mindset for the day. The devotion today was especially meaningful to me … it mirrors so much of what I feel God has been speaking to my soul over the past few years, specifically the past 3 months. I am 59, and have had a lifelong struggle with insecurities, shyness, and self-doubt, with more recent struggles with depression and health issues due to bad health habits and being “obese”. God really has pushed me through Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered recovery program, to surrender these areas “one day at a time”, and “one step at a time”. He has brought change and great healing in each of these areas of struggle in my life. Tomorrow, I will be sharing a 5 minute testimony in my church as part of celebrating the 8-year anniversary of Celebrate Recovery in our church. This is huge considering my fears! The difference is, God has helped me realize these fears no longer have to control me, and I can face those “giants” in my life with confidence because of His strength in my weakness, because of the great “cloud of witnesses” cheering me on, and because of the tremendous support from my faith family on earth. Thank you for being a part of that family in my life! Though we have never met, I believe God has used you to spur me on … we truly are kindred spirits.

  8. Katie Kump

    This one gets me every time. Love love love. xxoo, Katie

  9. Cheryl Smith

    Oh, Jennifer! I had read this before, but today, it felt so brand-new. I am sitting here in tears. I NEEDED this…sometimes we wonder why God prompts us to write something or to re-post it at a particular time, but He always sees every side of every equation, and He knows who needs to read those written words at any given moment. Oh, to hear HIS words, “WELL DONE!” Can you imagine? Just to know we have made it to the finish line, and to hear those “gates of glory” click behind our heels! And to fall at the Master’s feet and praise Him for getting us there and not allowing us to give up! Thank you for your consistent encouragement and for being such a blessing to all of us. 🙂

  10. melody hester

    I really loved this story and analogy of our heavenly Father cheering us on and calling us by name. Such a beautiful story. Tomorrow in Sunday School we are discussing this very concept through a study by Vicki Courtney called “Your Girl” and discussing how we must help our girls form their identity in Christ before they seek their identity anywhere else or try to fill that void through anything other than Him. I felt like your post was very timely for me tonight.



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