Acceptance. Approval. Popularity, Perfectionism. These few words would well describe the first twenty years of my life. I grew up finding my worth in these things because they brought me a sense of validation, gratification and satisfaction.
At least, that’s what I thought at the time.
I craved praise and words of affirmation from others. I remember being a young child, fearing my school teachers and doing everything in my power to stay out of trouble and gain their approval.
This pattern carried me through the rest of my school years. I graduated high school with nearly perfect grades so that I would be honored and praised for being able to get an A in every class.
I ran cross country and track throughout school and was crushed if I did not perform perfectly. The approval my soul thirsted for was quenched by award ceremonies, ribbons, and trophies.
Lastly, I searched for approval from the people around me whether it be my friendships or attention from boys; I was obsessed with the way others viewed me and would do anything to uphold my status as a beautiful, likeable person.
I grew up going to church inconsistently. I knew that God was real, and that He loved me, but I did not fully understand the reality of Who Jesus is and what He has done for me. I was not able to fully surrender my heart to Jesus until I realized the emptiness of everything else.
I continued living my life in this way, until the beginning of my sophomore year of college. I entered college wanting to be more intentional and serious about seeking Jesus. I did this by finding a church and joining a college ministry, while also getting caught up in the party culture that my college so heavily had.
I was living a double life. I would go to a Christian ministry event on campus, sing worship songs to God, but then find myself intoxicated and being carried out of a fraternity house at the end of the night.
I knew that God was pursuing my heart because I was getting to a point where I desired Him and wanted to know more about Him. But I continued this cycle of pulling God close while also pushing Him away.
A few months later, I found myself in a dangerous situation while I was very intoxicated. I was alone by myself in a city and had gone missing for a couple of hours. Thankfully, my mom came and found me, rescuing me from the disaster that could have been.
I remember waking up the morning afterwards and feeling a very deep shame. All I could think of that would help in that moment was to be outside and begin the day with fresh air. Little did I know, God was going to meet me that morning.
I walked outside and was in awe of the beauty from the sunrise. The sky was bright, like a painting with burnt orange and soft pink colors. I sat down and felt the presence of God. I felt a peace and calmness like I had never experienced before as I watched a new day be set before me.
In that moment, my soul was finally still enough to listen to God. I pressed into the shame I was feeling and realized it was God convicting me of my sin. God made it known to me that the life I was living – searching for approval from things that could never satisfy my soul – is not the life He has planned for me.
A few weeks later, I moved back to college and tried continuing in the “double life” I had lived the year previously; going to Christian ministry meetings followed by a fraternity party. But it just didn’t feel right. My eyes were opened to the emptiness of my life apart from Christ and I was able to surrender everything to Jesus. I knew that I had been living a life that falls short of God’s glory, but I also knew that I was not too far gone. I was not covered in too much shame for Him to turn me away.
I surrendered my life to Jesus and He made me new. All the times that I tried to be perfect in myself, or find my satisfaction in the praise and thoughts of others, Jesus had already paid for
it by His death on the cross. Jesus came to earth and died a death I deserve, so that I would live my life with God and for God in complete freedom.
Before Jesus saved me, I would strive to be perfect in all areas of my life while searching for approval and acceptance from the people around me. It was an exhausting cycle that never was fully achieved, because it is humanly impossible to be perfect and accepted by everyone.
I am no longer identified by the things that I do or the way that I look: I have a new identity, God’s beloved daughter.
I now have the freedom to rest in the perfection of Jesus Christ and forever know that I am fully accepted and approved of by God because He created me.
As I reflect on my life and the things Jesus has brought me through, I cannot help but be completely amazed by His faithfulness and goodness that He has brought forth from my story.
My story is God’s story. I will continue to live so that God will be glorified, because He is deserving of it all. His approval is more than enough.
Marissa was born and raised in small town Indiana and has grown to love living between cornfields and down country back roads. Marissa gave her life to Jesus while she was in college and has walked with Him ever since. Marissa is newly married to her husband, Cameron, and enjoys baking homemade bread, reading books and drinking coffee. Marissa has a heart for spreading the good news of Jesus through writing.