I’m Not Living For Applause

September 19, 2014 | 12 comments

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.

Here’s why:

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.

by | September 19, 2014 | 12 comments


  1. Sharon Brobst

    As always Jennifer, your words reach down deep into the places of my heart that need to be reminded of truth, that need reassure. Thank you sweet sister.

    • dukeslee

      So happy to hear that, Sharon. A joy to journey with you here.

  2. lindalouise

    Thank you for this gentle reminder, Jennifer. I wonder if we ever get old enough to have learned this particular lesson? I’m working on it 🙂

  3. Nicole Thelin

    THANK YOU. Thank you, thank you, thank you. A million times, thank you. I have been going through some crazy hard times this year. Along the way, I stumbled across Love Idol…. and I have looked to you for inspiration ever since.

    Just yesterday, I was so overwhelmed. In addition to the grief of some of the things I’ve been through recently, I’m also struggling to keep up with the exhaustion of mothering a 7 month old baby, homeschooling 4 other children (ages 3-8), keeping up with my college coursework, and doing all the other things that a service-oriented Christian stay-at-home mom does. Oh, and trying to build a writing career because that’s something that I’ve felt called to do since I was very, very young. So I’m also trying to write a book amid the chaos of my daily life.

    Anyway, yesterday, I was overwhelmed. Because of my weakness and seemingly constant failures, I felt wholly incapable of doing any of the great tasks that God has set before me. On my blog, I echo a lot of the same ideals you shared in Love Idol – that God loves everyone regardless of their weakness and His approval is all that matters. But yesterday, I just couldn’t seem to live it…. so I added ‘hypocrite’ to the stack of burdens and negative labels I was already carrying. Because who I am to teach when I am still learning?

    And then today I read this…. and it was amazing. It was like a great curtail lifted. It was like all the weight was pulled off my shoulders. It was incredible.

    Because if you can struggle this way, even though you’ve accomplished so much life-changing good in this world already…. then maybe my struggles aren’t so bad either. Maybe I can make a difference, too. Maybe there’s hope for me, too.

    I am so grateful for you and the messages you share, Jennifer. You are a force for good in this world and your messages have changed my life in so many ways. Thank you SO much.

  4. Patricia W Hunter

    I LOVE this. I’ve already shared with you how I’m leading the study this fall at my church and how I’ve fumbled with the mics, my notes, etc. It’s not getting any better, but I *think* the ladies love me anyway. At least I’m good for entertainment.

    Yesterday morning as I drove to church I was a mixture of confidence one moment and weakness the next, but by the time I was “on” I’d already lost my ear piece twice and the battery had fallen on the floor out of my jeans pocket. When I pulled out the ear pierce once again as I was speaking, one of the ladies in the front row helped me put it back in place and then she swooped down to remove the dryer sheet that was sticking out from the hem of my jeans. It hasn’t been more than 3 weeks since I walked all the way through the grocery store with a dryer sheet hanging out the bottom of my capris. It’s only week 3 of 11 of the study. I’m getting used to laughing at myself.

    The first week, I told the story of one of my friends and I used characters from Steele Magnolia to describe her, another friend, and myself. I told them that I was a cross between Truvy and Anell – a generally happy, but naive mess. I had no idea I’d have to prove it.

  5. Elisa Pulliam

    This is one of my most favorite songs — Francesca’s album is on constant replay in my life right now. Every word she sings tells the story of my heart and I am so grateful for the Lord’s timing! Praise God for the way He worked in you life too!

  6. Michele Morin

    New assignment on my horizon makes this post . . . amazing! I’ll remember what you said about the Lamaze breathing, but even more so that “our faithful God has a soft spot for weaklings.”

  7. Jody Ohlsen Collins

    Jennifer, you continue to inspire with your real-ness, and these lines of encouragement,
    “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.”

    Thank you, my friend, I so appreciate your words.

  8. Leah Adams

    Offering a quiet amen from Georgia. I’ve learned that I am simply a tool in the hands of the Master. If I will keep my eyes focused squarely on Jesus while my knees are planted on the ground before Him, He will orchestrate; He will speak; He will work through me. The trowel in the hand of a master gardener never has a minutes concern as to whether it is good enough for the job of planting a beautiful garden. It simply submits to the hand of the gardener. I want to be that submitted tool. I know you were that submitted tool last weekend…and the Master Gardener worked through you in amazing ways!!

  9. Nancy Ruegg

    Love that list of reasons why we continue to struggle for final victory over certain attitudes and issues: My weakness keeps me close to Jesus, flat on my face in prayer, asking God to be big in my smallness. It keeps me remembering what it REALLY means to be PreApproved. The fact that the victory has not yet been won does not mean defeat. It means deeper intimacy with our Savior as we cling to him–not our once-and-for-all successes. Thank you, Jennifer, for your wisdom, served up with sweet humility and grace.

  10. David Rupert

    I’ve noticed when I write just for the comments or the response, then I’m doing it for all the wrong reasons. And when I take my gift to God and supposedly “lay it at his feet”, I hear him clear His throat. “really? ”

    The idea you present here is a humbling one — Not being a know-it-all. We live this stuff called life everyday. Who makes us – any of us – the expert?

    Love your grace-filled words here.

  11. Abby

    I heard that song the other day and it was a lightbulb moment for me as well. The Spirit really spoke to me through this post, Jennifer, and I’m so glad that I’m not the only one who has to learn this lesson over and over. As you say, it keeps me close to him. Beautiful post.



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