I’m learning to release my need for approval. Whether I’m on top of the world or scraping bottom at my worst, God’s love never changes.
by Tara Johnson, author of All Through the Night
Approval and love are not the same thing. It’s taken me a lifetime to figure that out.
I desperately want people to like me. The thought of someone being displeased with me in any way causes my stomach to curdle.
What’s one way to shake that cold feeling of dread? Work harder. Be more agreeable, more likeable. Fit in and never let them see the real you. After all, if they know what you’re really like, the acceptance will disappear. Right?
That’s what I told myself anyway.
Growing up as a preacher’s kid, I somehow came to the conclusion that God was happy when the church was happy. In my mind, the church was happy when I put on my good-little-Christian-girl mask, constantly wore a smile, and did whatever was asked of me. I looked perfect from the outside, but I was an angry, resentful mess on the inside.
All of that changed one night in 2002. My physical body reached its limit and my emotions lay in scattered wreckage. I crawled to the bathroom floor and curled myself into a ball on the bath mat while I sobbed into the wee hours of the night. I was overwhelmed and completely exhausted. I couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t escape. Every fiber of my being cried out for relief.
I remember curling the long, soft tufts of the burgundy bath mat in my fists, clenching my teeth as salty tears filled my mouth.
God, you lied to me. You said if I served you, I would have joy. This is not the victorious life you promised.
I was lied to, but not by God. The enemy had fooled me into believing the best way to feel loved was by doing whatever it took to make people like me.
Somewhere along the way, I took my eyes off Jesus and began living for the applause of people. Men and women just like me. Sinners and failures, just like me. People who have made a mess of their own lives, just like me. People who didn’t die for me, yet I esteemed their opinion as if they did. And I lost sight of my Savior in the process. I gave away freedom and unconditional love and traded them for conditions, hopelessness, and chains.
In my new novel, All Through the Night, Cadence Piper struggles with her father’s expectations. When a phrenologist tells her family her stuttering is a result of a mental deficiency, Cadence works to prove the charlatan wrong by applying to be a nurse. When Dorothea Dix turns her away because of her youth and pretty face, she finds another way to serve . . . singing to the wounded soldiers at the hospital.
As her fame grows throughout Washington, D.C., she finally receives the approval from her father she has always longed for . . . until one disastrous performance brings her reputation crashing down. It isn’t until Cadence meets a surgeon named Joshua Ivy, and unearths the secrets he’s hiding, that she understands approval and love are not the same thing.
Approval is a stamp that says, “You meet my expectations.” Love says, “You are a mess but I’m crazy about you anyway.” The former reeks of self-righteousness. The latter is freedom and grace.
Just like Cadence, we can chase applause, but it drowns out the sound of God’s still, small voice. Some people will like me; some won’t. Others will love me no matter how many things I do wrong, and some will despise me no matter how many things I do right. None of it changes my worth in the Father’s eyes. I am loved. I am treasured. I am his. Living to please him is all that matters.
I’m learning to release my need for approval. Whether I’m on top of the world or scraping bottom at my worst, God’s love never changes. And I’ve discovered this amazing truth is what my heart has been searching for all along.
All Through the Night by Tara Johnson
With her stammering tongue and quiet ways, Cadence Piper has always struggled to be accepted. After the death of her mother, Cadence sets her heart on becoming a nurse, both to erase the stain her brother has left on the family’s honor and to find long-sought approval in the eyes of her father. When Dorothea Dix turns her away due to her young age and pretty face, Cadence finds another way to serve . . . singing to the soldiers in Judiciary Square Hospital. Only one stubborn doctor stands in her way.
Joshua Ivy is an intense man with a compassionate heart for the hurting and downtrodden. The one thing he can’t have is an idealistic woman destroying the plans he’s so carefully laid. When the chaos of war thrusts Cadence into the middle of his clandestine activities, he must decide if the lives at stake, and his own heart, are worth the risk of letting Cadence inside.
Everything changes when Joshua and Cadence unearth the workings of a secret society so vile, the course of their lives, and the war, could be altered forever. If they fight an enemy they cannot see, will the One who sees all show them the way in the darkest night?
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