It was Friday afternoon, one week ago today. I had just pulled my car onto the retreat center's long driveway, and the gravel was crackling in the wheel wells. I was taking these deep cleansing breaths, the kind they teach you in Lamaze. It was the kind of breathing that felt as much like prayer as anything I could muster up with words.
And then this happened. These were the words that floated, like silk ribbons, out of the stereo speakers:
"I'm not living for applause
I'm already so adored
It's all His stage
He knows my name."
That song -- timed just right as an antidote to my fears -- was no coincidence. It was a God-incidence. This was God, reaching down to say, "I see you. You're going to be okay. You can let go of your anxiety, your fear of public speaking, your second-guessing, and your doubts. I've got this."
I felt a peace wash over me, the Holy Spirit calming me through song.
Hours later, I would stand on a brightly lit stage -- so bright in my eyes that I would barely be able to find the faces of the people in the seats. And then I'd return to that stage two more times the next day, to remind the women how amazing they are -- exactly as they are. How they can let go of their self-accusations, anxiety, fears, second-guessing and doubts.
I have begun to learn that I am never preaching that message from a place of having perfected it.
I am preaching that message from a place of having to learn and re-learn it.
I am faced with daily challenges of having to live what I believe: That God loves me just as I am, not as I think I should be. I might be tempted to resent this position of continual relearning, of never quite getting it right, of having to repeatedly ask God to silence my inner critic, of begging friends like you for prayers. Yeah, I might be tempted to resent that position, but I don't. Not even a little.
My weakness keeps me very, very close to Jesus. It keeps me flat on my face in prayer. It keeps me asking God to be big in my smallness.
It keeps me remembering what it REALLY means to be PreApproved.
God gave us His son so we'd believe it: We are PreApproved. This is the Savior who willingly left the comfort of heaven, to live life in our shoes -- and then enduring far more pain, rejection, accusation and persecution than we could even begin to fathom. This is a Savior who ran from the spotlight, because He knew whose applause mattered. Bob Goff once wrote, "No one in history had more titles than Jesus, or cared less."
This is your Savior, who hung on a cross, in essence, whispering these words from cracked lips, over all of us, before we were even born:
"You are PreApproved, PreApproved, PreApproved."
When I finished up with my first talk last Friday night, I sat before a crackling fire in my private little cabin in the woods at the retreat center. I was reading messages and prayers from some of you, who had read this blog post last week. You knew that I had been battling my own inner critic -- that cranky antithesis to the message of PreApproval.
And so you asked: Well, how did it go?
Let me put it this way: When I have a panic attack again (which is probable) would you remind me how God has always proven faithful? How He doesn't go on vacation when we go on stages? And how the women who are coming to an event like that have come to receive a message from God, not a "performance" from Jennifer, so it doesn't really matter how I think I'm "doing" up there? All the best things happened. God was present. His Spirit was moving. And His Son was glorified.
So why am I telling you all this?
Because I want to give you hope -- you who are struggling again, feeling lost, forgotten, uninvited, rejected, unsure, unapproved, or scared out of your ever-lovin' mind to do what God is calling you to do. And I'm telling you this to remind you about that powerful thing called grace. Grace is an actual thing, not a detached theological concept.
I also want to remind all of us that God knows that we are a people "in process." And He doesn't stop loving us while we are in process.
And it seems like He wants me to tell you this today:
That God has never put anything between Him and His love for us, except for His Son.
He doesn't put expectations of our "good performances" in that space, nor does He put fear or condemnation. He doesn't put a to-do list or a job evaluation or a report card or a tally sheet in that space.
The only thing in that space? Is His Son, whispering, "PreApproved."
I am tremendously grateful that our faithful God has a soft spot for weaklings. How He uses the weak as doorways through which He comes with power and authority, in a way that there's no question who gets the applause or the glory.
God reminded me of these truths again this morning, when I spent some time in Ephesians 1:11-12:
"It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had designs on us..."
Long before. Already. Present-tense. PREapproved.
Francesca Battistelli is right. We don't need our name in lights. We aren't living for applause. We are loved, cherished, and utterly approved, just as we are.
A few of us in the Love Idol Movement think that Francesca's song, "He Knows My Name" ought to be adopted as our official theme song. What do you think?
Have a great weekend, friends. Live Loved. Live PreApproved.