This journal?

from approval


Under no condition have I ever stored it in the same box as the ones I told you about in my last post. It doesn’t belong in the boxes sealed with labels like “Child of Divorce” or “Child of an Alcoholic” or “Child with an Approval Addiction.” Its words don’t fold evenly beside the ones penned out of self-pity, self-reliance, or self-promotion because its pages don’t stink of living for approval. They sing of learning to live from it.

Before I tell you how that happened, I need to show you where it happened.

queens gate road kensington

This is Queen’s Gate Road in London, England. Specifically, the St. Alban’s Grove area of Kensington.

The building in the bottom right corner was home to me for 112 days in the Fall of 2001. At the end of the road is Hyde Park and Kensington Palace. A block over stands The Royal Albert Hall. Around the corner was one of Princess Diana’s favorite restaurants, Damario.  Adjacent to that sits a neighborhood pub called Builders Arms. I remember it because it had a TV. The first one I found when someone said, “Two planes just hit the World Trade Center.”

I was officially there to study Shakespeare, history, and organizational communication at an American university in the neighborhood. Unofficially? I was there to learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

I wrote every day—through jet lag, homesickness, and 9/11; on park benches and palace lawns; in trains, Internet cafes, and questionable hostels—and I saved every word as proof that Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28-30 was the cure for what ailed me.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

{Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)}

Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.

After years of striving and struggling and, yeah, even succeeding from a place of “I’m not enough,” Jesus set my feet on cobblestone and bid me come. Not for approval. Not for one more gold star. Not for another round of trying to prove my significance to the world or to him, but instead to learn the unforced rhythms of his grace; to cast off the sin that so easily entangled, and to watch it go.

As I leaned into the discomfort of living my life against an entirely different backdrop, and as my nightly walks home through Kensington allotted me time and space to listen and heal, I began to understand that life was not given to me to make perfect. It was given to me to live.

Freely. Lightly. With Jesus.

Not because I was good. But because I was His.

“Christ continually shouts through the universe, ‘You have a love that is already yours. You have nothing to prove to anyone. You have nothing to prove to Me. You are significant and preapproved and utterly cherished. Not because you are ‘good,’ but because you are Mine.’”

{Jennifer Dukes Lee, Love Idol}

What heavy or ill-fitting things do you need to cast off today? What space do you need to create to be able to really listen and heal and know that you are already significant, already beloved, already enough? If you are tired or worn out, get away with Jesus. He can be trusted to recover your life like he recovered mine, and you can be free.

“Because of grace we have nothing to prove. Our confidence is in the security and power God gives us, not in ourselves. To know that you are absolutely treasured, unconditionally, changes you in this way. You feel free, and you want to run with a God who would love you like that. To know that we do not measure up and that we don’t have to because of Jesus, because of grace, means that life gets a whole lot more fun.”

{Jennie Allen, Restless}