Sheila Michael

Sheila is a retired elementary school principal and educator. She spent over thirty years in education and has a specialist degree in educational leadership. She is also a wife, mother of four grown children, and grandmother of 12 amazing kiddos. Sheila enjoys cooking and teaching her grandchildren how to cook. Family gatherings are essential to the Michael “herd,” as they gather to share life with each other. Residing in Georgia, Sheila calls herself a “Southern belle with a twist,” since her husband is from Iowa. Sheila’s personal journey with God has created in her a desire to write and share the “God moments” she has experienced in her life. She loves mentoring young women in their walk with Christ and encouraging families to serve and love the Lord and each other as they navigate through life’s challenges.

How I Gave up My Need to Perform for Approval

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (7)

For most of my life, I have been a people pleaser. Many times I have focused my day on winning the approval of others. I wanted to hear another person thank me for something I did or respond with praise over my effort.

This desire for people to notice me began as a teenager. Both my parents loved and accepted me, but that was not enough. Instead I sought out my friends’ approval. As a teenager, I “did church” just to be a part of a group, seeking the group’s approval and not God’s. I developed performance-for-approval habits as a teenager, and these became a way of life.

All through college and even my career in teaching, I used my performance to gain others’ admiration or affection. When I spent time with God, I shared my worldly wants and ambitions with Him, but not my emotional needs. I felt like I might exhaust God by asking Him each day to help me feel loved and worthy. So I didn’t ask.

The Cost of Seeking the Approval of Others

Unfortunately, my approval seeking began to take an emotional toll on me, particularly in my teaching career.

When I desired to move from the classroom to the role of an elementary principal, I was encouraged to take leadership classes that prepared me for the job. In my classes I was informed that I needed to dress for success. I observed the leaders who taught the class and realized that I would have to wear high heels and professional suits, plus get my nails done.

All of these requirements stretched me because I was a play-in-the-dirt kind of girl. My hands didn’t like princess nails. I placed a lot of pressure on myself not only in my job, but as a mom. I felt the success of my children was another way I could show my success as a person.

As a result of the demands I put on myself and accepted from others, insomnia began to settle into my nighttime routine. During those sleepless moments, I woke up angry and emotionally exhausted. I didn’t feel like I dressed like my superiors wanted me to, parented well enough, or met the needs of those closest to me. I stayed awake planning ways I could do better at work and at home.

Hours would tick by without a feeling of peace. I tried all the strategies I learned in church: quoting Scripture, praying, or singing my favorite worship song.

However, where was God in all of this? Far away! I didn’t allow the Holy Spirit to direct my path in relationships because I was determined to meet my needs for love and acceptance on my own: I would buy a new pair of high heel shoes, get my nails done — or bake someone their favorite treat, call them, or take them to lunch.

All these ideas for trying to please or impress others seemed harmless, but my heart was not a godly heart. I was seeking a human love that could not measure up to God’s love, and I was not demonstrating an unconditional love toward others. I was offering my performance in exchange for something in return.

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (8)

How I Gave Up My Need for People’s Approval

Several years ago, when I retired from education, I began to really dig into God’s Word. I joined a young moms’ Bible study at my church. I accidentally found myself in this class because I liked the topic of the Bible study. On the first day, I realized that there were two older people in the class, and I was one of them. The moms made me feel welcome, but when I left, I was not sure I should return.

The next week I returned to the class. I chose to stay because these young moms had amazing energy, a strong desire to learn about God’s word, and a wish to connect with other moms who understood the challenges of being a mother. It was during a study called The Best Yes, by Lysa Terkeurst, that I realized I was driven by my need to live life in a stellar performance mode to win others’ approval. I was convicted by a verse included in the study that jumped out at me with these words:

Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. (Matthew 6:1, MSG)

In our study, Terkeurst referred to author and pastor Dallas Willard, who wrote The Divine Conspiracy. He says,

When we want human approval and esteem, and do what we do for the sake of it, God courteously stands aside because, by our wish, it does not concern him… . When our aim is to impress human beings … he lets us do that… . On the other hand, if we live unto God alone, he responds to our expectations — which are of him alone.

I had one of those oh-my-gosh moments when I read that. I took a deep look into my past and discovered all these years I was living my life out-of-sync with God. What Williard says about how God “courteously stands aside” while we aim to impress was true in my life.

God was standing aside since my pride created a distance between us. After this moment in the study, however, my quiet moments with God became a time to examine my deep desire to be loved by others and why I felt I needed to work so hard to make people accept me. The solution to my problem was not to earn my family and friends’ love, but to live my life for God and trust Him to meet my need for approval.

It was a freeing moment! A weight had been lifted because I didn’t have to try to win people’s approval. I could let go of my own unrealistic expectations for myself and performance-based system of living. How freeing is that — awesomely so! God created us to worship Him and to celebrate how He created us. My moments with God now begin with praise because He so wonderfully made me the way He wanted to and not the way I think He should have made me.

Now when I wake to the old voices of fear and worry telling me that I have to perform, I pray to my Father, acknowledging how He loves me for me, and I praise Him for making me “me.” I think about 1 Thessalonians 2:4 (NLT), which says, “Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.”

I ask God to search my heart to direct me when I am concerned about my relationships with others. When I do that, I am able to let go of my anxiety about what I have or have not done that day; I meditate on how He loves me, and when I do, all is well with my soul and sleep returns.

Prayer: Father, may we praise You for the breath that You created in us. May we know that this day, You have given to each one of us a desire to celebrate living life for You. As we live today, continue to search our hearts and draw us near so we will not leave Your presence to seek what we think we should accomplish. Help us to be mindful that our performance is to bring You great joy because You are the center of our life. We trust You to walk with us and direct our actions. May all the glory be Yours. 

Sheila Michael

Sheila Michael

Sheila is a retired elementary school principal and educator. She spent over thirty years in education and has a specialist degree in educational leadership. She is also a wife, mother of four grown children, and grandmother of 12 amazing kiddos. Sheila enjoys cooking and teaching her grandchildren how to cook. Family gatherings are essential to the Michael “herd,” as they gather to share life with each other. Residing in Georgia, Sheila calls herself a “Southern belle with a twist,” since her husband is from Iowa. Sheila’s personal journey with God has created in her a desire to write and share the “God moments” she has experienced in her life. She loves mentoring young women in their walk with Christ and encouraging families to serve and love the Lord and each other as they navigate through life’s challenges.

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Obeying and Yielding to the Holy Spirit

obeying the holy spirit

How many times do we run from the task God has called us to do?

Not long ago, I felt the Holy Spirit impress on me to make a phone call, but a busy schedule was holding me back. Many of the things on my to-do list were godly things: taking food to a family, helping with a Bible study, and going to choir. However, they were distracting me from God’s will. As Christians, how many times have we done our godly agenda but not the agenda God has called us to do?

The person I felt a prodding to call was my Uncle Larry. He had colon cancer, and his health had deteriorated over the past few years. At first, I felt I should pray for him. I would wake up with him on my mind, so I would pray. A week later, I heard a strong voice from within say to call my uncle. But I had a full day. A Bible study to help lead. I didn’t act.

Acts 8: Philip and the Ethiopian

As I shared with my husband about what God wanted me to do, I had another stirring within. I was reminded of a passage from Acts in which the Holy Spirit instructs Philip to proceed to a particular road to intercept a chariot:

But an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Rise and proceed southward or at midday on the road that runs from Jerusalem down to Gaza. This is the desert [route].’ So he got up and went. And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship. And he was [now] returning, and sitting in his chariot … reading the book of the prophet Isaiah. Then the [Holy] Spirit said to Philip, Go forward and join yourself to this chariot. Accordingly Philip, [went] running up to him … ” (Acts 8:26-30 — AMP)

Just like Phillip, I needed to “run” toward my uncle. However, I had many obstacles in my path that day. I had to meet the son of a choir member to give him dinner since his dad was in the hospital, and then I had choir practice. But to appease the Holy Spirit’s overwhelming prodding, I decided after I delivered dinner, right before choir practice, I would contact my uncle. Surely that would take this spirit of urgency away from my soul!

Standing in the entrance of the church doors, I called my uncle and told him that I thought God wanted me to come pray with him. His reply was something unexpected. He exclaimed, “Well, get your butt over here!”

His reply was out of character for him.

I said, “I can’t tonight. I have choir practice; we are practicing our Christmas music, and we are starting now!”

My mind was racing because the next day I had a Bible study. So I asked, “How about tomorrow at 1:00?”

He agreed to the time. The next day, I went to see Larry, and told him how God had directed me to call him. He said, “Yesterday, for the first time, I fell on my knees and cried out to God and told Him I wanted to give up. I could not do this anymore!”

He said it was the lowest point of his life because his pain was so great he felt his purpose in life was over. But, he said my phone call had given him hope.

I felt awful that I had delayed in calling him. I realized I had almost missed a God assignment.

The Holy Spirit Spoke Through Me

As I sat there with him, I suddenly became fearful because I didn’t know what God wanted me to say or do. So, I did the best thing to do when fear attacks. I prayed. I began praying for healing and for strength for Larry to fight his illness. As I prayed, I had a prompting to pray for a person (no name was given) that God wanted my uncle to speak to for Him. After our prayer, I sat across from my uncle looking into his eyes and asked him questions – questions not from me but from the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor … ” (Luke 4:18).

I wasn’t sure where those questions were leading, but it became clear that God was relaying something important for my uncle to hear. I said, “Isn’t it amazing how deep and great God’s love is to bring us together to pray for this person that you are to speak to?”

My uncle looked at me and said, “I don’t know who it is. Each morning, I ask God to show me who I am to speak to and share a message. When I go for treatments, I have prayed with people and for people. I have tried to go back to some of the people in my past and apologize for any wrong doings. I just can’t imagine who I am to speak to.”

I told him that God would tell him. I also said I would be praying for a name, and if I got one, I would let him know. Driving home, I asked God to reveal the name to my uncle, and a name came to me: David. David. God had given me the person’s name!

I called my uncle and said, “It is David. Do you know any David?”

After a long pause, He whispered in a voice so soft I could barely hear him, “Yes, and he needs prayer.”

“Who is this David?” I asked.

He said, hesitating, “He is my son.”

Later, I found out that David was in jail, and had been there for a while. I had not seen him in forty years.

I said in a quiet and slow voice, “I forgot you had a son named David.”

“Isn’t it amazing how God wants you, his earthly father, to let your son know how much God loves him, and how He sent God’s love to him?” I told my uncle I would be faithful in praying for him to have the opportunity to tell David how much God loves him.

In response to my words, I heard only silence. As it grew uncomfortable, I got the impression that Larry did not want to talk anymore. I said my good-byes and hung up the phone.

Submitting to the Holy Spirit’s Nudge

I do know that God used my call to Larry to share His love for his son. Since our conversation, I have not asked about David. I am waiting for the Holy Spirit to lead me to do that if He wants me to. I was just the messenger, and it is up to my uncle to decide whether or not he will share God’s message of love He wanted to give to David.

I was honored that God used me in this instance, and I learned something about my response to the Lord: I felt His nudge several times but didn’t respond as I had my excuses. But praise God, He kept prompting me even though I was fearful to obey. Like Philip in the Acts passage, I didn’t know what I would find when I acted, but I got more details after I went ahead and proceeded toward the “road” the Holy Spirit was directing me down.

Many times we don’t want to act when the Holy Spirit stirs us to move unless we know all the steps and the outcome. But – just like in my story with Larry – that is generally not how God works. He gives us the small act to do – and then He opens up the rest as we move in the direction He has asked us to go.

I had to trust God. And even though I don’t know the ending to Larry’s story with his son, I was still rewarded in knowing that the Holy Spirit used me to encourage and speak to my uncle. I felt peace because I had responded to God’s nudging in my spirit.

My challenge and prayer for each one of us is that we would be open to the Holy Spirit and not be too busy doing great things to do the greatest thing that God would have us to do!

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ ” (Isaiah 30:21)

Sheila Michael

Sheila Michael

Sheila is a retired elementary school principal and educator. She spent over thirty years in education and has a specialist degree in educational leadership. She is also a wife, mother of four grown children, and grandmother of 12 amazing kiddos. Sheila enjoys cooking and teaching her grandchildren how to cook. Family gatherings are essential to the Michael “herd,” as they gather to share life with each other. Residing in Georgia, Sheila calls herself a “Southern belle with a twist,” since her husband is from Iowa. Sheila’s personal journey with God has created in her a desire to write and share the “God moments” she has experienced in her life. She loves mentoring young women in their walk with Christ and encouraging families to serve and love the Lord and each other as they navigate through life’s challenges.

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