It’s rare that a book’s description so completely grabs my heart that I have to re-read it about 26 times. That happened when I read the back cover of Jennifer Lee’s Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval – and Seeing Yourself through God’s Eyes, which opens with this: “Hi, I’m Jennifer. I know we’ve just met, but already. . . I want you to like me.”
If those words hit you between the eyes, too, and you’re not afraid of looking your insecurities in the mirror, keep reading. Jennifer’s here, sharing an excerpt of the book and a note about why she wrote it.
A note from Jennifer Lee. . .
Love Idol is about letting go of our need for human approval, and resting in the approval and love of God. The book is about laying down every mirror, every tally sheet, every report card, everything that tells us that we’re not (______) enough. Together, we are saying out loud to the world, and out loud to our own selves: “We’ve had enough of the Not-Enoughs.”
But it became clear to me, as I began writing the stories for Love Idol, that there was more at stake for us than how we feel about ourselves. It became clear to me that once a woman is loosed from the chains of her own approval rating, she is called to love others, with no strings attached. Freed from the clutches of the Love Idol, we love other people FROM our approval in Christ, rather than FOR their approval. That truth shone with clarity during a trip we took with our girls to Haiti, as told in this excerpt from Love Idol.
It’s one of our last nights in Haiti. Lydia and I are sitting on the porch of our hosts’ house, next to the ocean. She tells me she doesn’t want to go home.
“I don’t know how to go back, Mom,” she says.
I tell her that in one sense, going back might be impossible anyway. We can’t undo what has happened inside us. We are changed.
We sit in the silence, hundreds of miles from our comfortable life in Iowa. Her skirted legs and dirty feet stretch out next to mine on this seaside porch.
. . .
My daughter, age 12, exhales a long sigh and holds up the book she’s been reading while we’ve been here. She shakes the book in the air, like a banner. It’s Kisses from Katie, the story of Katie Davis and her ministry to children in Uganda.
“Katie says that Jesus wrecked her life,” Lydia tells me. “God turned everything upside down, and later she realized He actually turned it right-side up.”
I wonder where Lydia might be heading with this conversation. The most human part of me—the part I call “mother”—is scared to know. What if Lydia or Anna won’t go to college because she feels called to Africa? What if my girls think the only way to serve God is by moving to a third-world country? Or this: What if I try to sway them from serving where God calls because I’m more concerned about their 401(k) plans and convenient access to my future grandchildren than about His will for their lives?
I know my default response to such things. I’ve been on a journey to fight against it, but I know how I can get.
. . .
On the porch, I shake my head. Like Lydia, I don’t know how to go back either. I want us to keep our dirty feet. I suppose, in some ways, we will. Because our two daughters can’t un-see what they saw in the orphanages and school yard. They can’t un-feel the hands of the orphans or the tight hugs of Haitian sisters. Lydia can’t un-read Katie’s words or unravel whatever God is weaving in her small heart.
The haze of years might blur some of the details, but we have already been changed. Lydia hurls her words into the dusk, like a prayer. “Mom, I don’t want to live an average life.”
She’s only a child, but she finds the right words to wrap around her middle-aged mother’s heart. I don’t want average either. I want to fight the comfortable middle and the future threat of Love Idols.
I want to live from my approval in Christ, not for the approval of people.
I am not sure either of us can articulate what our aspirations might mean for our family. We really do have to go back to Iowa in two days, but I know this much: We don’t have to go back to average. Sure, we’ve got average moments ahead of us—at the kitchen sink, at the farm gate, in the girls’ school classrooms. But I tell Lydia that any average moment in this life is never really average if we’re living each ordinary moment for an extraordinary God. And who knows? Maybe our not-so-average lives will bring us back to Haiti someday.
For now we’ll sit on the seashore a bit longer, memorizing this moment, while Katie’s book sits, with its spine gleaming in the moonlight, and the city lights across the bay shine stubbornly into the dark.
This essay includes an excerpt from Love Idol by Jennifer Dukes Lee. Copyright © 2014. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.}
Jennifer Dukes Lee is a storyteller and a grace dweller. She and her husband are raising crops, pigs, and two humans on the Lee family farm in Iowa. She is the author of Love Idol:Letting Go of Your Need for Approval—and Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. The book, released one month ago, has started a movement of women declaring that they are “preapproved” in Christ. Jennifer blogs about faith and life at JenniferDukesLee.com. She is a contributing writer for Dayspring’s (in)courage and for TheHighCalling.org. You can connect with her on Twitter @dukeslee.