Have you ever read the story The Emperor's New Clothes by Hans Christian Anderson? Since being a little girl it has been one of my favourite stories. In the tale a rather vain self-obsessed Emperor unwittingly hires two swindlers to design him a fabulous new outfit. The swindlers produce the most fantastic elegant cloth using their great weaving talent that makes fabric so light and fine that it is ‘virtually invisible’. The swindlers tell the Emperor it is only invisible to anyone who is too stupid and incompetent to appreciate its quality!
Not wanting anyone to think him incompetent or stupid, the Emperor parades around the town in his new magnificent (non-existent) outfit and all his subjects pretend they can see it and appreciate its value. Only a little boy at the back of the crowd, who has no reason to care what people think of him has the sense to shout ‘The Emperor’s naked’.
It's a funny story in which we all laugh with disdain at the rather stupid Emperor and his whole town of followers who bought into the lie. No doubt we all like to align ourselves with the young boy, confident that, in the same situation, we would be the ones to cut through the unreality just like he did.
I wonder how true this is though? I wonder as we look at our hearts, how similar in fact we are to the Emperor. How much do we care about what people think of us? How easily do we strive for perfection and success, keen to quench the thirst of our hearts for acceptance, approval, value and worth? Perhaps we take temporary fixes in man's praise or our own achievements, not realising that we have quite merrily bought into the greatest lie of the greatest swindler of all.
But the profound truth in Scripture breaks through this lie in the same way as the young boy called out the truth to the crowd. ‘This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins’, (1 John 4:10). This truth that God loves us breaks through all our striving and straining and calls us to rest. His love for us determines our value. His love secures our identity - a child of God.
So I encourage you to lay down any search in your heart for significance or approval from man. Rest in the knowledge of God’s great love. Let Him whisper His truth into your heart – ‘It’s enough for you to be just as you are, My precious child. Because of who I am, you can be who you are’. I want to pray with the Apostle Paul, ‘May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it’(Ephesians 3:19).
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I’m sorry for the times I have allowed the longings of my heart to lead me into a search for man's approval. Father God, I acknowledge that my worth and value is quite simply sealed in You and in Jesus' death on the Cross. Please reveal more of who You are and Your amazing love and acceptance of me, as I keep my eyes fixed on You alone. Amen.
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