I have always been a rule-follower. As a child I never required harsh punishments from my parents. Just knowing I had done something to cause disappointment was enough to correct my behavior. It was important to me to know that I had the approval of my parents, teachers, and other adult role models. It didn’t take me long to figure out that if I was obedient, if I followed the advice of others and lived up to their expectations, they would like me.
My parents encouraged me to a pursue a degree in the medical field and in the fall of 1999 I entered Brenau University’s Occupational Therapy program. I loved it. I enjoyed reading, studying, memorizing, and even dissecting a cadaver. My grades were top-notch and I took on leadership positions in my field of study as well as in extracurricular groups on campus. My “obedience” was bringing me a lot of success. However, as I progressed further in my studies and clinical experiences, I began to realize that occupational therapy wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
As I prayed, studied, and sought God’s will for my future I realized that I had put the “approval of men” over the plans God had for me. I had chosen a career path out of obedience to my family as opposed to God. And I felt trapped in it.
So, fast forward to January of 2001. I had already attended a few weeks of classes and that’s when it hit me: God was calling me to leave Brenau, return home, and pursue a degree in education. Which meant I was going to have to disappoint people as well as sacrifice a lot of hard work and achievements. For a people-pleasing, rule-following girl like me, this was not easy to swallow.
One of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do was explain why I was making such a radical decision. Several of my professors expressed frustration, friends actually became angry, and a close family member told me, “But you’re too smart to be a teacher.” And while I knew they had my best interests at heart, I knew that God did too. That’s what gave me the confidence to be obedient to Him despite the sacrifices I had to make.
In Romans 12:2, Paul writes: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (NLT)
I allowed God to renew my mind and change my perspective of obedience. While it was a painful lesson at the time, I now look back on that season with thankfulness because God was revealing His perfect will for me.
Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. – Galatians 1:10, NLT
The greatest freedom is found in His approval alone!