It was finally Thursday morning. I had spent almost the entire summer getting ready for this day. I had planned and shopped and painted and decorated and shopped and rearranged my classroom. It had taken me countless hours to prepare for this day and the moment I woke up, it hit me.
Butterflies, sick on my stomach, aching nervousness.
I drank my coffee and did my best to brush the feeling off. It was going to be okay, right?! I brushed my teeth, fixed my hair to look just right, made sure my makeup was just enough but not too much, sifted through my closet for the thousandth time trying to find the perfect "teachery" outfit (maybe I should wear a sweater...no, I'll just take one just in case), and walked out the door.
On the way to school, I practiced welcoming the parents and what I would say to them. Is "hi" or "hello" better? Should I shake their hand or not? What if I forget something?!
I get to school and start putting the final finishing touches on my classroom. Rearrange a few things AGAIN and carefully comb through my classroom library to put the perfect books out for parents to see. (What if they don't like me? What if they think I'm too young?)
To distract myself from my inner freaking out, I walk around and check out my co-workers classrooms. Bad idea, y'all. I don't have this or that. I don't have as much experience. This is my first time ever. Do I need that? What on earth was I thinking?!
Then open house starts. Y'all, when I say I forgot almost everything I wanted to say, I did. I stumbled over my words. I said "um" probably a thousand times. I shook some hands but didn't shake others. Did I smile too big? Do they think I'm not the best person for this job? Do they think I'm silly and too young? Do I look "grown up" enough? Do they like me? Are they annoyed?
Hi, my name is Allison and I am a recovering people pleaser.
Man, what a lifelong struggle it has been.
I could not even begin to tell you how many hours and days I have WASTED wondering what people think of me and wondering if I'm good enough, strong enough, pretty enough, smart enough, dedicated enough, diligent enough, hard-working enough, and just flat out enough for someone.
Most of my life, I have lived cautiously, not wanting to offend anyone or upset anyone or disappoint anyone or hurt anyone. While these things in and of themselves are not inherently bad, these things being our focus is deadly. When our focus is on pleasing others, we lose sight of who we are living for and who we should be striving to please: Jesus Christ.
My freshman year of high school was tough one and there were a lot of lessons learned during that one short year. The ones I remember most happened almost within the same semester and I can still tell you exactly how I felt in those moments. They were big.
The first came and went in a matter of three weeks when I "dated" someone. I so so desperately wanted a boyfriend that I took matters into my own hands and got myself a boyfriend. I had been praying for YEARS for God to give me a boyfriend and when I got the answer "Wait," in January 2010, I was done waiting. I pushed hard and I won. Then it didn't work out. And I was absolutely crushed. I cried for weeks as he moved to another girl and then another girl while I was left still picking up the pieces feeling unloved, rejected, and not enough.
Two months later, I was listening to my iPod and working on homework in my room when the song "Back at my Heart" by Natalie Grant came on. I cried the whole time the song played and when it was done, I closed my bedroom and listened to it again, weeping and literally on the floor on my face before Jesus. (The song is at the bottom of this post if you want to listen to it!)
I needed Jesus to come and mend my heart but before the healing could begin He showed me my ugliness and need for a Savior. I didn't want a boyfriend because I was looking for a future husband. I wanted one because that's what all of my friends did and maybe if I had one, other people would accept me too. My desire was to be liked by everyone and the only way (I thought) I could do that was to have a boyfriend.
In those moments, I knew Jesus was asking me to trust Him with this area of my life. I needed to rely on Him and refocus my life on pleasing Him, not my peers.
That moment is when I began "dating Jesus" and taking our relationship deeper than ever before. But the days, weeks, months, and years following that moment and my promise to live to please Him was not without it's struggles, losses, and disappointments.
Not long after that, I was still struggling to not focus on pleasing people and I was beginning to be afraid that I would never be good enough for Jesus. I struggled so much, how could I really be considered a Christian?
I was listening to a teaching by Priscilla Shirer and I honestly do not remember a thing she said but she talked about one particular verse that has guided me ever since.
"For God did not give us a spirit of fear; but of power and love and a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7
Sound mind. Man, I don't know about you guys but there are some days where I need the blessing of a sound mind threefold. When she read the verse, I don't think I wrote anything else down or heard anything else she said. I was wrapped up in this verse.
God did not give me a spirit of fear. He did not cause me to be timid or fearful about stepping out in faith. He created me and my personality, yes, but with God's help we can always rise above it. Satan was the one that offered me paralyzing fear. He wrapped it up nice and pretty and made it seem like this "gift" was a better option than Jesus's sound mind.
The moment I realized that I had rejected Christ and His gift by continuing to walk in fear of judgement of others, I was done. I was never really on the "wrong path" but I wasn't living out my faith in private the way I should've been. Just like the song, on the outside everything was fine but inside was a broken mess. I got back on track. I began reading Scripture with such a hunger and spent almost an hour before school every morning in my Bible. I began memorizing Scripture and carried that verse with me everywhere on an index card. On really hard days, I set it on my desk to remind myself of WHO I was in CHRIST.
I wish I could tell you that people respected me more because of my faith and I was well accepted.
The following years have been filled with seasons of loneliness and rejection. Some seasons, I came out stronger. Some seasons required more healing afterwards.
I still struggle with wanting to please people rather than Jesus but it's different now. I can recognize Satan's tricks and attacks. That verse comes back to me and I praise Jesus because of it. Then Satan gets quiet because there's nothing he hates more than for believers to use his attacks to bring glory to God.
As I drove home, beating myself up for everything that went wrong during open house and being paralyzed by my fear of not being liked, the Lord reminded me of His sweet message to us.
"Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, fear the One who can kill both the body and soul in hell." Matthew 10:28
I know this verse doesn't sound much like a promise or even very comforting but if we look carefully, you can see hope and peace woven throughout it. Here, Jesus is saying to His disciples not to worry about the Pharisees. The worst they could do is kill your body. The same is true for us. The worst someone could do to us is kill our body but as followers of Christ we have the promise of eternity in heaven with Him. Our soul will live on. Praise the Lord! No one wants to die, obviously, but if the WORST someone could ever do to us is give us heaven, then why does it matter what they think?
Our focus should not be to please those who can only kill our body but God who can kill our body and soul. Our mission in life is to live to honor and glorify HIM. He is our life, joy, and song. He's all that matters.
So, just a little real talk and self-evaluation here (I'm talking to myself too):
Are you more focused on the quality of your quiet time with God than the quantity of likes or follows you get on social media?
Are you more worried about who looked at your insta or snapchat story or what God sees when He looks in your heart?
Does acceptance by your peers matter more to you than being the hands and feet of Jesus at school?
I know I still have a lot of work to do but I'm recovering.
"And what, then, should we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31
I am currently a teacher and life-long student of Scripture learning more about life and Jesus's marvelous love and boundless grace.