My husband and I were watching The X Factor (we tape it and watch it when we want a diversion on occasion) and this girl with an amazing voice got up and sang her heart out. She was 29 years old and has been trying to break into the country music scene for years. As the judges were about to tell her whether she got a “yes” or “no” vote from each of them, they stared, relishing power. She looked nervous and filled with anticipation. They gave her such accolades and she held back tears. As she went off stage into the arms of her friends she said, “All my life I’ve been waiting for this. Now I feel validated.” It was a sweet moment — sweet, but somehow sad.
Paul asks in Galatians: “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” I watched that contestant rise up on the swells of the opinions of four people just because those people had a status in the world and were sitting in the chairs of judges. Validated. She said they validated her. Our great need, our hunger, our longing summed up in that one word: validated. To validate something is to make it authentic; to confirm or substantiate; to approve.
What that singer longed for and found only momentarily in the eyes and words of those judges is ours in abundance in God through Jesus. He sees the lost, the lonely, the broken which is in each of us and to that person He says, “yes.” His yes is not momentary. It won’t change with mood or situation. He said the “yes” as He knit us specifically and uniquely in our mother’s womb and sealed the “yes” on the cross. His love goes on without measure and is for each one of us as though we were the only beloved He knows. What that contestant will find is that the happiness of human approval has an underbelly. Our approval lasts but for a moment or a season. Human love is not the love of God. It is prone to be fickle and imperfect. But, God IS love. His love is so much a part of Who He Is that He IS Love. His love goes beyond our performance to the depth of who we are.
We can have misguided longings which cause us to look for love and approval in frail and empty places. We can hang our hat and our internal sense of value on the opinions of others. We will come away empty because we are not wired to fill through anything but God. All substitutes will disappoint us one way or the other because they are just that — substitutes. I am reminded of the children’s tale of Two Bad Mice written by Beatrix Potter. In this story these two mice find this doll house and they are overjoyed at the seeming bounty within the home. They go to take a bite of the amazing fare on the table and are immediately incensed that the food is made of plastic. They try something else and are equally frustrated. As their frustration mounts, they begin to destroy the doll house out of disgruntled anger. If only they knew that the house was not intended to be a supply of food.
Nothing on this earth was meant to sustain us and fill us as God’s love — His very Self — is meant to do.
Waylan Jennings said it in his song: “Looking for love in all the wrong places; Looking for love in too many faces; Searching your eyes, looking for traces of what I’m dreaming of…” And more profoundly, St. Augustine of Hippo said, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” Only One can truly validate. All other validation will ultimately leave us hungry and wanting for Him.