I’m not even going to lie. When I first heard our pastor say that he was going to do a sermon series called “The Chatterbox,” I thought it was going to be a series on how to be a better conversationalist.

Before you think, “Wow, Carrie, you are stupid,” let me just say I’m justified in thinking so. For starters, a person who talks a lot could easily be called a chatterbox. Additionally, there is at least one Bible verse that could go along with this. I’ll refer you to James 1:19, which says, “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger” (NRSV).

And such a series would be totally applicable to my life. If you’ve ever talked to me, you’ve noticed that I love to talk. I’m not kidding. It’s almost impossible for me to shut up. It’s always been that way, even as a kid. Whether I was quoting The Lion King nonstop or telling a story about my imaginary friend, I was always talking. My dad used to say that I was going to be the white Oprah Winfrey one day (which I’m completely okay with. I could live with being that successful and rich).

So I was prepared for a sermon on why I should stop talking and start listening when I walked into church on Sunday. And while I didn’t hear the sermon I had braced myself for, I did hear a message that everyone should hear.

Pastor Alan gave a quick overview of what to expect in the upcoming weeks as we enter into this new series. He discussed how frustrating and sometimes legitimately disappointing it is to be listening to the radio only to have that great interview, story, or song you’re enjoying to be cut off and interrupted. He then pointed out that it is the same way with the Word of God.

The Word of God tells us so many truths that the world tries to drown out and interrupt. The Bible tells us that we are loved and that God has nothing but the best in store for all of us. But how many times do we hear the exact opposite? Maybe it’s not even from the world, but from ourselves.

I can honestly tell you that I’ve spent more time looking in both the literal and figurative mirror critiquing myself than is healthy. You’ll never find a person who is harder on himself or herself than I am on myself. Too many times, I let what society and the world tell me drown out the truths that God tells me. The worst part is that I’m so used to listening to the chatterbox that I sometimes let it warp my opinion of myself so that I become the source of negativity and lies.

It was said during the sermon that humans have 60,000 thoughts a day, and 80% of those thoughts are negative (statistics taken from Wikipedia, so take it with a grain of salt). Now we could debate and discuss the sources of this negativity all day long. Is it coming from me? Is it coming from the world and our society? Is it coming from Satan himself? Regardless, we can all agree that it is not coming from God or His Word. God not only tells us, but shows us time and again in the Bible and in our own lives that He is full of positivity and love. The best part is, you don’t have to take my word for it because God’s Word speaks for itself. Here are just a few verses that demonstrate what I’m saying:

Psalm 147:3 (NRSV): “He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.”

Jeremiah 29:11 (NRSV): “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

John 10:10 (NRSV): “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

James 1:17 (KJV): “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

It amazes me the lengths that we all go to for acceptance. Alan referred to it as “auditioning” and rightfully so. We all get up in front of these people that we so desperately want to like us and put on the best version of who we are. Then when we’ve left, we hope and pray that we impressed them.

It’s the same way when you’re applying for any job. The phrase “selling yourself” leaves something to be desired and is very unsettling, but ultimately, it’s what you do when you go to apply for a job. You put only the best things on your resume. You dress up for the interview. When asked what your weaknesses are, you don’t list actual weaknesses; you say things like, “My biggest weakness is that I just work too hard,” or “I guess my worst habit is that I’m a perfectionist.” You’re trying to promote and sell yourself, all the while hoping that the employer is still interested in buying.

I have to say, I’m not much on acceptance. If you like me, great! In fact, I probably like you more than you like me. If you don’t like me, chances are that I’ll probably still sleep pretty soundly tonight. There are relatively few exceptions to this. And it’s nothing personal. It’s just that I like the person that I am, and if you don’t, that’s okay. It’s your opinion, and you are entirely entitled to it. But I’m not going to let the opinions and perspectives of others define who I am.

But not everyone is fortunate enough to feel this way.

And I haven’t always been like this. When I first started high school, I wanted people to like me. Even then, it bothered me. It was so cliché and out of character for me even then. But for a while, I would see all of these cool kids and just really want them to like me. I can’t recall the point that I stopped caring, but at some point, it didn’t matter to me anymore. And seriously, every person I wanted to like me freshman year did like me by the time we graduated. They got to see and know the real me, not the eager-to-impress version that I’d revealed at the beginning of our freshman year. Once I stopped auditioning, they loved me.

I went through something similar when I went off to college. I wasn’t worried about impressing people, but I was concerned that I wouldn’t make a single friend at WCU. I wasn’t going to be a person I wasn’t, but I was scared of living in a place that far from home and constantly feeling lonely. While I may not have made an exceptional amount of friends there, I now have some acquaintances, some friends, a few close friends, and two best friends that will forever and always mean the absolute world to me. The best part is that they all love and accept me for who I am.

The thing of it is, we’ve already gained the most important acceptance: God’s acceptance. I love all of you dearly, but in the end, the only one whose love and acceptance I’m concerned with other than my own is God’s. And the crazy part is, I’ve had His acceptance since before I was born. I’ll never get over how mind-blowing it is that God loved me knowing how weird and problematic I am.

Maybe you’re the same as me. Perhaps you’re broken or troublesome or odd. Maybe you need a little more help or guidance than you’d like to admit. You could be struggling with how you don’t seem to really fit in anywhere.

If you glean nothing else from this post, let it be this: God knows, loves, and accepts you exactly as you are. You don’t have to audition for Him. You don’t have to clean up or change before coming to Him. He doesn’t want the “better” version of you; He wants the real, every-day you. He’s seen you at your worst and your best and everywhere in between. He loves you just as much in your worst moments as He does in your best.

So stop auditioning. Nothing you do could make Him love you more or love you less. His love and acceptance aren’t earned; they are freely and immediately given. His love is there whether you want it or not, and it’s there whether you see it or not.

By Carrie Prevette

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