I grew up in a loving Christian home and it pleased me to please everyone. Whether at home, church, or school, I was committed to people-pleasing.
I was a regular youth group attendee, answering every question correctly.
I was a straight A student and first-chair flute player.
I was a loving daughter who didn’t do anything “too bad.”
I was a supportive and fun friend.
I was what everyone wanted me to be, and I was happy making other people happy.
My desire for affirmation from others seemed harmless enough, until I got to high school. Then, pleasing everyone became harder. Being a “good Christian girl” conflicted with being “the cool friend.” And how could “the cool friend” also be “the daughter who didn’t do anything too bad?” The lines were beginning to blur.
So, I subconsciously started living a double life. Be who everyone wanted me to be at home and church, and then be who everyone wanted me to be at school. No one was the wiser because I went to school in a different town than my church.
I went to school and cussed and told dirty jokes. I went to church and talked sweet Christian talk.
I packed promiscuous outfits in my backpack so I could change at school.
I started dating an atheist. I thought I could convert him if he came to church with me. Not too long into the relationship, I was the one converted. No, I didn’t deny God’s existence with my words (that wouldn’t please my parents and church friends), but I denied God’s existence with my actions.
I always wanted to save myself for marriage. But what I wanted didn’t matter, if it meant withholding something my boyfriend wanted.
I still called myself a Christian. The label didn’t affect my reputation at school because it seemed all the other “Christians” were living the same lifestyle. So there was no problem. What my parents didn’t know didn’t hurt them, and my skill for lying and deceit left me feeling pretty confident I wouldn’t be found out.
Shortly before college, I attended a women’s retreat through church. There, I received an anonymous letter. “Sex won’t satisfy you,” it said. “Only God will satisfy you.” How did they know?! I was terrified I had been discovered.
I went home and broke up with my boyfriend. Then I left for college, hoping for a fresh start. This time I wanted to do it right. I wanted to put God first. So I resolved only to date guys who were “Christians” . . . but found they were no different from my ex-boyfriend.
So I swore off guys. Problem solved. Or so I thought.
I met a guy. Yup, you read that right. But this guy was different. He shared the gospel with me. And suddenly, I realized guys weren’t the problem. It was me. My sin.
For the first time, I admitted I was a sinner. I hadn’t seen it before: I was not “as bad” as other people. I went to church and had asked Jesus into my heart. I believed He died on the cross and rose from the grave.
However, I had not realized there is more to the gospel than the narrative story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The gospel is called the “good news,” and there is no good news without bad news. The bad news of sin is what makes the good news of the gospel so good (and necessary).
Without being honest with myself about my condition as a sinner against a Holy God, I couldn’t see my desperate need for a Savior. Christianity isn’t just a label to slap on by doing “good things,” or avoiding “bad things.” Instead, Christianity is the transformed identity of those who surrender their lives to Jesus Christ, turning from sin, and trusting that Christ lived a perfect life on our behalf. It is through His work, not our own doing, that we are saved (and have the right to be called Christians).
Well this boy, who shared the true gospel with me, is now my husband. But initially, I wasn’t sure I could be his wife.
Not that I didn’t find him attractive (oooh buddy, is he attractive!), but my very attraction to him raised doubts.
You see, I didn’t want to be a crowd-follower or people-pleaser anymore. I wanted to follow Jesus on my own, not because it would make a cute boy like me. I wanted to be sure I was following Jesus for the right reason.
Only through reading God’s Word and prayer was I assured of my salvation. I was challenged to read through the book of 1 John every day for a month; quickly, the Holy Spirit began to work in my heart and give me the assurance of salvation for which I so desperately longed.
In 1 John, I read that as a Christian I was still going to sin, and denying my sinful nature would make me a liar (1 John 1:8-10). Even though I would still sin, I won’t want to sin. Those who are truly in Christ will not continue and be happy in sin (1 John 3:5-6, 5:18). Instead, we will turn from our sin and want to please God.
Oh boy did I want to please God!! Maybe one good thing from my people-pleasing lifestyle was a lot of practice at passionately trying to please others; now I can passionately give my life to pleasing God. No longer for approval, but because I am approved in Christ. My devotion to Him and pursuit of a life that blesses His heart not only brings God joy, but it brings ME joy to please Him!
As we journey together through Gracefully Truthful studies, I encourage you to dig deep into God’s Word to find what pleases Him, and discover the joy of pleasing Him!
Faces of Grace connects you with other women and their faith journeys!