Being a people-pleaser, I can find myself striving diligently for the approval of others. As I have matured into my adulthood, I’ve learned how detrimental this can be to me AND my relationships.
It’s a habit I am trying to undo because honestly, it often leaves me “undone”.
One of the advantages though to this characteristic is that I am routinely thinking of what matters most to others. Although there is a fine line between “consideration” and “people-pleasing”, the process of examination is helpful to me as I relate to others, especially so with God. I am often asking myself, ” What is He after? What does He really want from this situation I am reading about in the Word? From this person in this passage? From me as I seek to understand?”
Admittedly, I have to be careful not to seek His approval based on my attempts to please Him. I remind myself often that I already have His approval on the merits of Jesus Christ and nothing else.
As I read Scripture, I ponder what it says but also what God means. I enjoy studying the details as well as the big picture. Using Scripture to interpret Scripture, relating all of the Bible to give context and clarity, is vital to my understanding. It isn’t enough for me to read it, I have to understand it. Otherwise, I am left frustrated and unable to apply its truth to my life.
My perspective is that reading and studying the Bible should grow my knowledge and understanding of who God is, His love for me, and my love for Him. That is what I am after.
So as I approach the familiar Christmas passage of the shepherds in the field watching over their flocks, I try to place myself there at the scene, experiencing it all with fresh “eyes to see”(Mark 8:17-18). Luke 2:8-20 describes a birth announcement like no other, as one would expect of God becoming Man.
It begins with the shepherds guarding their sheep at night, like every other night, when all of a sudden an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them. As can be imagined, they were terrified!
He tells them,
Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
Then it says a great company of heavenly host appeared with the angel and began praising God by saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.
The shepherds went to see if what they had been told was true. When they saw the child and all was confirmed, they spread the word…..and it says, “all who heard wondered at what had been said to them.”
This word “wonder” used isn’t meant to convey curiosity but rather an admiration, marvel, or amazement.
In other words, awe.
I am reminded of a similar expression of “wonder” mentioned in Jeremiah 2:19 and how God strongly, very strongly, viewed this emotion. When I first read this passage years ago, it made a profound impression on me as I had never considered this emotion from God’s perspective.
‘Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of me’, declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty.
Knowing God considers it ‘evil, bitter, and forsaking Him’ when people feel no awe toward Him is a game changer! So as a people-pleaser, not to mention a God-worshipper, I take note!
I begin to understand and relate the feelings of awe, wonder, and amazement with worship.
And there I find what I am looking for, because now I see what the Lord is after. God wants our wonder because there is worship in wonder! What pleases God is the wonder, the awe of Him, that should naturally overflow from us as we see and experience Him.
That is exactly where we find the shepherds after spreading the “wonder” to all who would listen! It says in Luke 2:20 that they returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen.
So as I approach this celebration of that holy night all those years ago, I want to linger in the knowledge of what pleases God. May I be more like the shepherds who spread the wonder and less like a woman with a to-do list!
In the midst of family gatherings and timely traditions, may the awe fall afresh on us as we consider the wonder of it all!