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The One Thing You Can’t Earn

The One Thing You Can’t Earn Hero Image The One Thing You Can’t Earn Hero Image

“I was raised with the idea that you have to earn everything you get,” said Paige Davenport. “So, when I was searching for God in my teenage years, I thought I had to earn salvation and God’s love for me through good deeds.

“My parents raised us in a Christian home, but it was more focused on good morals and values, being a good person, and upholding the image of a great family. We sometimes went to church, and I thought I believed in God, but I’d never heard the gospel clearly explained.

“The focus of my childhood was athletics. I was even homeschooled for several years so that I could devote more time to soccer. I cared deeply about earning the approval of coaches, my parents, and any adults in my life. I would revel in hearing adults tell my parents what a good kid I was or how impressed they were by my success. I thought what people liked most about me was the image of perfection I had created, but I knew I wasn’t perfect. I was terrified of disappointing the people around me or failing in any way and put a lot of pressure on myself.

“My life was defined by people-pleasing, perfectionism, pride, and fear of failure. It was a love-hate cycle where I loved the high of people being proud of me but hated how empty it eventually made me feel. I wanted to be the image of perfection and uphold a perception that my life was fulfilling because of the praise I received. I got all the affirmation, I was succeeding in school and soccer, but I kept thinking, ‘There has to be something else.’

“After a year of convincing, my parents allowed me to quit soccer, and I returned to public high school. But I realized very quickly that all my identity was tied up in soccer. I didn’t know my purpose in life anymore. I became super interested in God and wondered if He had a purpose for my life. I always heard that some God in the sky had a plan, but I didn’t know if He had a plan for me.

“I didn’t relate at all to the people in my high school who said they were Christians. They were partying and drinking, and I was a sheltered ‘good’ kid. All my friends were Mormons, and I related to them in terms of personal morals and values. They believed that their good works would earn them God’s favor and a place in heaven, which sounded great to me. I’d been working my whole life to be ‘good’ to earn approval.

“For a year, I attended a Mormon church every week and studied the Book of Mormon. I resonated with the people and the teachings, and I really wanted to believe it. I had never studied the Bible before, so I thought I knew who God was, but I didn’t at all. I eventually told my parents I wanted to be baptized into the Mormon church and, to my frustration, they wouldn’t let me.

“Shortly after, my family decided to start going to a nondenominational Christian church. It was there in youth group that I heard the truth of the gospel clearly for the first time: that Christ lived a perfect life that I could never live, died for my sins, and rose again to give me salvation, and there was nothing I could do to earn that (Ephesians 2:8-9). It was so different from Mormonism, which teaches that you must perform good works to get to heaven.

“Accepting Christ as my Savior completely changed the way I lived. There was no more pressure to be a perfect person; I could admit my struggles and actually talk about them. It was a huge relief. For the first time I felt I could find my identity in the Lord and who He says I am as His daughter, not in who others say I am. I don’t have to base my worth on whether other people approve of me or not. It was a monumental shift in my perspective.

“I still can fall back into wanting to have everything tied up in a pretty bow and looking like I have it all together, but my worth is no longer on a teeter-totter where I only feel good if I get others’ approval. Now that I know Christ, there’s freedom from needing to find approval from other people. I can take risks without fear of failure and instead walk in faith. I no longer need to portray or strive for an image of perfection – I can just release that to the Lord. Jesus lived a perfect life, so I don’t have to.”

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