This certainly isn't a new discovery. I've been aware of this condition for quite some time - even blogged about it way back in 2013 (see "Report Cards" if you're interested). But have you ever noticed that there are some lessons that seem to be set on permanent repeat in your life? This is one for me.
I'm so thankful for God's gracious and patient and gentle dealings with me. It's such a beautiful mystery that He completely accepts me just exactly as I am, but loves me too much to leave me in that state. God has been very kind in allowing me to be surrounded by encouragement and support my whole life. I don't think it's been wrong for me to receive and appreciate feedback - in fact, that's what the body of Christ is for!
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up,
just as in fact you are doing.
(1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,
but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs,
that it may benefit those who listen.
The instructions in these verses make it pretty clear that an important function of communication is to build one another up - and we can safely assume that it's perfectly acceptable to be on the receiving end of such encouragement. This is a gift from God - the opportunity for genuine community in which we can generously give and and gracefully receive words of blessing. If you find yourself a part of such a circle, embrace and appreciate it!
I'm beginning to discern lately, however, that God wants to take me to a new level of relationship with Him. I've been vaguely aware of little warnings over the years pertaining to the dangers of depending solely on feedback and praise to determine my value and fill my bucket, but I'm sorry to report that they've gone largely unheeded. So this time around, He's led me in such a way as to completely remove me from my current greatest and most on-going source of external validation. It sounds harsh, but it just goes to show how patient and gentle God's dealings with us are - I can see how He's been preparing me for this change and challenge all along, when I look back along my path. Many small, loving nudges and hints and lessons and messages have all combined to ready me for this. I'm seeing now, more clearly than ever before, that He wants to be everything for me - He wants me to look to Him first to fill my bucket! He wants to be my primary source of encouragement, joy, value, hope, strength, direction, satisfaction...everything! He's been good enough to show me, too, that outside sources of encouragement have not and will not dry up completely. It's just that, before, I was depending on others to build me up, to the point where I wasn't even thinking about what God thinks of me.
But I'm in the joyful process of discovering that God's got this...He's so good at filling my bucket! (Big surprise, right?) It's a little ironic, I think, how God's arranged the circumstances of my life to coincide with this happy discovery - almost everything I do right now is for an audience: this blog, the different pieces of our ministry, my direct sales business...He's so good at knowing what I need and providing it in just the right way at just the right time!
I believe God blesses obedience. In this particular case, He's given me a gift I've been wanting and asking for for years! I've never been able to write a song in my life, and I've always wanted to. In the past three weeks, God's given me four! With more on the way! And it's a credit to His teaching and grace that I have been able to resist the urge to make them public the minute they were written :) I was encouraged to share the first one with a small audience, and that was another blessing - one way God has shown me that He will provide abundant encouragement in ways I never imagined. I'm joyfully anticipating how God will use this new gift; and I'm confident that whatever feedback follows - negative and positive - I'll be enabled to allot it it's proper place in my perspective.
Allow me to offer a few parting words of encouragement - receive them knowing that you are completely loved and absolutely valued and altogether delightful to the One who made you!
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit!
(Romans 15: 13)