Being a people pleaser and a rule follower doesn’t mean the gospel applies any less to me. Just because I’m good at keeping the rules doesn’t mean I can attain righteousness. Praise God I don’t need to!
An Extreme Rule Follower
I cheated once.
In 4th grade.
On a spelling test.
I know it sounds ridiculous but I still remember it like it was yesterday. My palms were sweaty, my hands were shaking, my heart was racing as I stole a glance at my neighbor’s paper and then changed my answer to reflect her’s.
I remember the curl in her hair and the way her paper looked and the horrible guilt in my stomach the moment I did it. When the teacher went over the answers, I looked at my paper and realized, I had had it right before I cheated. I cheated and lost points and you know what I honestly thought? “Serves me right!”
Obviously, I’m a natural-born rule-follower.
I do what’s expected of me. I rise to the occasion and it honestly isn’t hard for me to meet and exceed expectations. Give me a to-do list and I am your girl. Tell me what I need to do to make you happy and I will get it done.
I work hard in my relationships and my tasks and, because of this, it feels like an injustice when people don’t like me. That sounds dramatic but it’s true.
When I face rejection and disapproval, my first response is brokenness because the question of what I could have done to deserve this trial immediately rises to the surface.
I know this is pride in my life and it is amazing to me how quickly it comes. A single Instagram post and I am 15 again, fighting for affection and feeling left out.
Why do I Care?
This happened just this week again and I began examining my heart – why do I care so much? Why do i feel this way? Why is this my first reaction?
And I realized, the reason this matters to me so much is because I work very hard and I feel the results of my work ought to be matched in affection and appreciation but they aren’t always.
My entire life I have been striving for relational success. I want to make people happy.
But, let’s be honest, often that is a futile effort.
And that is exactly why my favorite verse has always been Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Rest from earning favor.
In Christ I don’t have to work for God’s favor. In Christ, I already have His approval. In Christ, because of what He has done, not what I have done, I have the joy of God’s presence and the closeness of His love.
I don’t have to earn my place in His presence.
No amount of rule following will be enough.
I come to Him on the basis of Christ’s righteousness, not my own, and I find rest.
He has accomplished everything and I am a wretch who is saved by His mercy.
The gospel for the rule follower proclaims rest from our striving.
What a sweet truth that is!
No Pride in His Presence
See, God did give me a standard to live up to and I failed miserably. While I can usually pride myself on attaining human standards, I can never attain God’s. His standard is perfection and I am imperfect.
But the beauty of that is, God set the standard but He knew I couldn’t attain it so He sent Christ to attain it for me. I have no hope in myself. Only Christ.
The same is true for you.
So, this week, as I battled my own perspective and feelings and frustration walking through the grocery store, and asking the question – how does the Gospel affect this feeling? What redeeming purpose is there in this pain? The Lord met me with the truth that I am “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).
Accepted. Loved. Chosen. Cared for. Adopted. Redeemed. Cherished. Forgiven. Welcomed.
If you find yourself striving today, know that you can come to Christ and find rest.
You don’t have to meet the world’s standards or your family’s standards, or your own standards. It isn’t about how successful you are or how many people like you. We come to God on the basis of Christ’s work alone and we find rest.
Truly His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
We are accepted, we have a seat at the table, we are welcome family, and we are never left out or rejected.
We can rest.