“Until you are convinced of God’s incredible love for you, you will continue looking for replacement love everywhere but in the heart of Christ. No matter where you live or work, temptation confronts you. The enemy prowls around like a lion, stalking people on Wall Street, fashion runways, suburban cul-de-sacs, Facebook walls, and even gravel roads in rural Iowa. You and I are in a showdown with Satan, who will use every opportunity he can to whisper in our ears,
“What are people thinking of you?”
She’s a dear friend to the family and has been an amazing supporter to Touch of Hope and my personal journey in Haiti since the beginning. I’ve cried in front of her on a hard day, sought advice about hard stuff on other days and laughed as my boys showed her their best dance moves. I just feel real when I’m with her and I love that about her. Her name is Jennifer Dukes Lee and she has a message that is beyond real in her new book Love Idol. I just finished reading it front to back the other night and my heart was left still and challenged. I’ve never put a name to one of the biggest Idols in my life: Love, and Jennifer describes its symptoms and dangers perfectly in this book. But her cure is the greatest news of all: We have been pre-approved by Jesus and He loves us for exactly who we are. We no longer need to seek approval from the world!
I like to say that I don’t care what people think of me, and for the most part I don’t let people’s judgements play a part in the decisions I make. But, let’s be real, I so totally care. I joke with my sister that I want a wardrobe that would define me as a “cute missionary” so, even in a place where fashion has little to no importance, I still care. Maybe not as much as I once did, but I do.
And like every other woman, I worry about the number on the scale and the size of my jeans. In high school, I worried about the starting line-ups, winning basketball games, report card grades, the popularity contest and the number of activities I could list on my college applications. In college, I wanted more Facebook friends and crazy week-end stories. I loved having nice things, especially name brand jeans.
As the Lord began to break my heart, though, truly the number on the scale and the name on my jeans did become less important to me but, it was then that the Love Idol set up base in my broken heart, too. After a while, people tagged me as the “girl from Haiti” and I loved the attention that gave me. I enjoyed knowing my blog was becoming more popular and I felt pride telling people what I was choosing to do with my life. But eventually, it all began to feel fake. And, I hate fake.
Jennifer’s book diagnosed my problems and I love the fact, that in Jesus’s name, we are healed! We don’t need to worry anymore about statistics, popularity contests or the number of “likes” we get on Facebook. We are pre-approved in God’s eyes. His love is forever and as Jennifer puts it, “You are God’s favorite” (page 227)
Before the foundations of the world, He loved you.
Before the fall of Eden, He loved you.
Before He sent His son splitting through the cosmos of this world, He loved you.
Before He died upon the cross, He loved you.
When He rose again, He loved you.
And He’s coming back again because He loves you.
When you took your first breath, He loved you.
When you messed up bad, He loved you.
When you won and when you lost, He loved you.
I love knowing that I don’t have to care about my tag-lines or the popularity of this page anymore. I love knowing God doesn’t keep track of Facebook likes or judges us by the brand of our jeans. I love seeing God’s work in action, His love seeping in to the darkest places and His light shining a message of hope and love for the world to see.
About a year ago, an old basketball coach complimented me by saying, “you’re just awesome, what you are doing is so awesome.” I smiled, but humbly admitted I’m really not that awesome. I’ve never won any popularity contests, I don’t have any shiny awards and truly, I feel awfully mediocre on most days. But, yes, what the Lord has done in my life is more than awesome: He has done more with the school than we could have ever dreamed of, He has taken our ministry in so many new directions, He opens up new doors and brings new people into our lives when we need it and He is simply so very faithful. All. Of. The. Time. God is awesome. Not me, I’m very ordinary. Maybe crazy, but not awesome.
I actually feel that I am only beginning to see the awesome things that He is going to do through me, the school and in Simonette.
This moment with my old basketball coach has truly impacted me. In high school, I worked very hard to earn her approval. I worried entirely too much about basketball, in general. And here I was, nearly 5 years later, and she was giving me the greatest compliments. Compliments I had always longed and wished for. And, they weren’t satisfying for my soul to hear. They seemed fake and I wanted to give credit where credit was due.
This life isn’t about the approval that the world has to offer us. We have already been pre-approved. All the crazy and awesome things that have happened in my life are because of Jesus and my choice to follow him. And from the mountaintops – along with Jennifer – I want to tell you all about the love of Jesus. And like Jennifer, I want to be remembered by my love for Jesus, not the awesome things I did.
Let me finish with a great example of Jesus’ pre-approved love that I was able to see in my small corner of the world:
A few months ago, we had an 18-year-old orphan at our gates who was pregnant and needing a place to live. She was being kicked out of the house she was living in because she had gotten pregnant. She had nowhere else to turn. We unfortunately had no room for her at Tytoo, so I began thinking of people in Simonette who could possibly help her.
Our first grade teacher at the school came to mind. She had recently moved into a new house, was single and had no one else living with her. I knew she had the room, but would she really want to take in a young, strange girl who had clearly made mistakes in her past. So, I cautiously asked her, not wanting her to feel obligated to help, but almost immediately she said, “no problem.”
A few days later Jilliane moved in with Charlene. Her eyes sparkled as she told us this was the first time in her life she would have her own bed. (Amazing, I know.)
After getting her situated, I asked Charlene if there would be any rules for Jilliane or anything she wanted to discuss before I left. What happened next was amazing… Charlene began to explain that her only rule for Jilliane was to always let Charlene know where she was going if she left the house. She said, “If I hear there is an accident in Cabaret, but I know you are in Titanyen I won’t have to worry; but, if I hear there is an accident in Cabaret and I know you are in Cabaret, I will start running to look for you, even if I have no shoes or underwear on!”
Literally, she said no underwear. I can’t make that type of story up!
All jokes aside, I was blown away by the love Charlene already had for Jilliane. She didn’t care where she had come from, what mistakes she had made or what trouble she could cause. Moments after learning her name, she was saying she would run looking for her to make sure she was safe from an accident. Charlene showed me what “pre-approved love” really is all about.
I want to love more like Charlene. But, really, and Charlene knows it, too (she told me she did!) that type of love can only come from Jesus. It was His mission and the very reason why he came to walk on the same earth that you and I walk on today!
Jennifer is calling it the Love Idol Movement and I want to join her by sharing the great news that you are pre-approved and loved by Jesus. You can read all about at her blog: http://www.JenniferDukesLee.com OR go out and buy a copy of her amazing book Love Idol available to buy at http://www.amazon.com
And, by the way, Jilliane had a healthy baby boy just this past Sunday and named him Schneider. She’s still living with Charlene and plans to start working as a cleaning lady at the school in the near future. She also goes to church with Charlene every Sunday :)