Measuring stick or burning bush?

Chocolate Village by Youngest Daughter
Chocolate Village by Youngest Daughter
My senior year in college, my French teacher gave individual oral exams. I’d worked hard all four years, learned every vocabulary word, memorized French kings and battles, read the famous French authors and poets, and scored 99% on my written exam. But when she asked her last question, she frowned. In English, she said, “Though you know the language and speak it fairly well, you would never make it in Paris. So I cannot give you an ‘A’. You swallow your vowels.” When I asked her a question, she sat up in surprise and said, “Oh, you swallow your vowels in English as well.”

That was it? My chance to graduate with high honors gone because I swallowed my vowels? I have to admit, I hated her as I walked down the hall, feeling the same pain I felt the end of senior year in high school.

The first day of Chemistry class our teacher had announced no girls ever earned an ‘A’ in his class. So, I’d studied hours every day to prove him wrong. When I showed my straight ‘A’ report card to my father, he scowled and pointed to my Chemistry grade. “What’s this ‘A’ minus?”

I know some of you struggled to get through any class, and may feel like reaching through the Internet to slap me, but I’m only sharing this to show how I shaped my life around trying to be perfect, to do well, to shine — to win approval.

In some form, that need for approval has driven my life, sometimes pushing me to do more than I thought I could, and more often, to shrink back, fearing failure and rejection. I have measured my value in the eyes of others.

That is a very precarious way to live, because it is impossible to please everyone, and some people make demands I shouldn’t meet.

And because, I am learning, measuring myself by other’s yardsticks, seeking their approval, is an idol.

It’s not a shiny statue or marble pillar idol. It may even look like a good thing, most of the time.

After all, those I’ve served through the years have benefited from my efforts. To a large degree, western society, and even our churches, run on the energies of those working to earn their way.

But, it’s what Dee Brestin calls a heart idol. I can’t see it, only the results in my life. It’s usually something one has struggled with for years, and wondered why it keeps jumping back up.

“You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. . .” Ephesians 2:2 The Message

The good news is, after hearing the Voice of Love so many times through the years, I’m beginning to receive the message.

When I look around me for approval, I’m missing the Presence. Missing the only true source of value for my life. Missing the only true source of joy.

In “How the Hidden Dangers of Comparison are Killing Us … {and Our Daughters} : The Measuring Stick Principle”
Ann Voskamp says, “The world isn’t a forest of measuring sticks. The world is a forest of burning bushes. Everything isn’t a marker to make you feel behind or ahead; everything is a flame to make you see GOD is here.”

“Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see – how good GOD is. Blessed are you who run to him. Worship God if you want the best: worship opens doors to all his goodness.” Psalm 34:8-9 The Message

I’ll take a burning bush over a yardstick, any day.

Do you have something you’ve tried to change or conquer that keeps coming back up?

2 thoughts on “Measuring stick or burning bush?

  1. Jane, I spent the first half of my life swimming in untruths. There are many reasons why, which I won’t get into here, but the long and short of it is that I was looking for acceptance and approval. I didn’t feel I was good enough, worthy enough, smart enough, pretty enough, etc. So I made up for my shortcomings with lies. It was quite a toxic phase. And one of which I’m none too proud.

    But to say that it is done, gone, or over would be an untruth too. I struggle everyday to walk in my truth and to choose it over what sounds better and looks better to others. And like a recovering alcoholic needs to stay away from the drink, I need to stay away from the fables.

    It’s not easy. No struggle is. But I am learning firsthand how much honesty and transparency is valued. And what true freedom there is in being no one but yourself.

    As always…thank you for this post.



  2. Lots of wisdom here, Jane. If we concentrated on pleasing God, our work would be more focused and effective. We’d have only One measuring stick to considered. Speaking for myself, maybe I wouldn’t wake up in the morning with clinched jaws. :0)


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