Many come into adulthood with ideas that love and acceptance must be earned, that there are conditions to receiving love, and that only through achievement and advancement can one find approval. We were applauded, accepted, praised, or noticed only when we achieved. Or, no matter how much we did or accomplished, there was an absence of love and approval. This view of life creates subconscious, insatiable desires to earn something that should have been granted at birth. Authors McIntosh and Rima call this “existential debt.” (cf. The Dark Side of Leadership). Starving for expressions of love and acceptance from important others, we often look to other things to satisf
As Nathaniel Brandon powerfully states:
“In considering the many parental messages that may have a detrimental effect upon a child, there is probably none I encounter more often in the course of my work than some version of “You are not enough”… The tragedy of many people’s lives is that in accepting the verdict that they are not enough, they may spend their years exhausting themselves in pursuit of the Holy Grail of enoughness.” (Honoring the Self, pg. 25-26 Bantam Books 1985 New York ISBN 0-553-26814-7)
But the Bible exclaims that God, through His love and character, has imparted to us everything needed to be “enough”. Through Jesus, God receives us into His favor and imputes the righteousness of Christ upon us (2 Cor. 5:21). His love is unconditional, undeserved and freely given.
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12-13
Our new identity is rather simple. As said before, we are children of God adopted and accepted through Christ Jesus. Nothing more accurately defines us in the matter of who we are now that we are in Christ.
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” I John 3:1
The Bible states that we could never earn or deserve this position as God’s children. We are born into God’s family as an act of His grace and will (Ephesians 2:8-9). Therefore, we don’t strive to become a child of God. It’s not something developed as a result of effort, or earned only after achieving enough to be worthy of it. We are declared God’s child by the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and by our faith in what He did for us in that we could not do it for ourselves. God accepts us and through Christ approves us. As his child no amount of success can make me more loved by God, and no amount of failure can make me less loved by God. Nothing I “do” could change the status of my relationship to Him because it was not gained through my performance, but through a spiritual birth activated by trust in what Jesus did for me.
I grew up in a family that experienced the chaos and confusion associated with alcoholism. Affirming expressions of love were not a part of my childhood experience. I grew up longing for approval and sought to find it in rather invalid ways. When I became a father, I wanted to pass on to my children a different understanding of their relationship to me. When my kids were young I would go into their room at night before sleep and lay in their bed to pray and talk with them. When my oldest son was about 4 years old I began a little exercise that continued for a few years and that I did with all three of my children. I said to him, “Ryan, if we were to line up all the boys in the entire world, which one would I chose to be my son?” He would rather confidently say, “Me daddy!” and I would respond, “That’s right.” I did this periodically over the next 3-4 years and Ryan would always respond with, “Me daddy”. But on one occasion, when he was about 8 years old, he answered differently. After asking the question to him one night he responded, “But what if one of them played basketball better?” There was a pause. I knew he now understood my questions to him. I said, “I’d choose you.” He then said, “What if one of them was smarter?” I said to him, “I’d choose you Ryan.” He smiled and then said, “OK Dad”... as if life could now move on as usual.
I asked these questions to my children because I wanted them to have full confidence in my love and approval, and to understand that nothing they could ever “do” would cause me to love them more or love them less. That just as they are, they are enough. That they do not have to earn my love—it already exists by the fact that they are my children. This is what I experienced in Christ. And the irony is this. When this full understanding of approval is complimented with discipline, appropriate behavioral expectations, and a vision of them reaching their potential, the result is a healthy and powerful inner security that motivates them to give their full effort and seek to excel in those things they “do”. It’s also a powerful bond between me and my children.
Through Christ God says, “I chose you. Just as you are, I love you. And nothing you do could make me love you more or cause me to love you less. Through my Son, you are enough.” Because of this fact, we as God’s children may walk securely and confidently. As God’s children we may now truly come to know ourselves, value ourselves, and be secure from within. Nothing else is needed. Nothing else is ultimately necessary. What a firm foundation!