I was thirty years old, and the proud father of a newborn daughter and a five-year-old son. I felt that I had a good marriage. The church where I preached had grown from 350 members to nearly 700 in a little more than three years. We had a nice house and an interesting yard. We had friends our age. Other than our budget being very tight and Donna and I struggling to find quality time for each other, every outward appearance suggested things were great. So, why was I restless and unsatisfied with myself?

One day, a friend came up to me and said, "I dream weird dreams. I'm not sure you want to hear this, but I had a dream that I think you should know about."

What do you say to that? "Sure," I said, "I think I'm ready to hear it."

My friend went on to describe my dad and then an old rundown house where we stored hay for horses when I was a boy. He described walking into the house, and my dad stepped out from under the stairway as he left the kitchen, walked up to him and said: "I want you to tell Phil that he is doing a good job and that I'm proud of him." The piece you need to know about this, however, is that my dad had died five years earlier.

I wasn't sure of what to make of the dream theologically. I do know, however, that on a personal level, it was a great blessing. It calmed some of my soul's restlessness and gave me a great deal of reassurance in my life and my ministry to know that my dad was proud of me!

If you have lost a parent in your early adult life, you know how much your heart aches to believe such things. I realize now how desperately I needed the approval of my dad in those days. I have seen it again and again in others. They struggle for self-acceptance because they don't receive the blessing of praise from someone of significance to them.

These days, I hope I have learned a deeper truth. The really necessary validation I need only comes from God. But to be honest, this is not an easy truth to accept. I need affirmation from others who are important to me.

Most of us have grown up with the stories of the frog that was kissed by a princess and became a prince, or the Beauty that calmed and valued the Beast, or the story of Cinderella who was chosen to be a princess. Some mythic and loving person comes and validates a tragic figure's worth, saving that person from tragedy, or worse.

What we fail to realize is that God has done that for us. He is the prince who finds Cinderella and makes her a princess. He is the princess who kissed the frog and makes him a prince. He is the Father who has seen us, known us, and chosen us. And he did it at the cost of the cruel ordeal of the Cross to make us his own.

Salvation becomes the recognition that our story is a real life fairy tale come true. God values us. He has provided us our real identity and purpose in Jesus. He calls us to live a holy life, not to meet some arbitrary standard, but to reflect his character and compassion as his children. Our standing before him is based on our trust in Jesus, not our good deeds done to earn us good standing and praise from a grudging Father looking to find fault.

I have missed my dad's presence many times over the years. I've mourned for all that he did not experience with us as our children have grown up. I've needed advice he wasn't around to give. I've needed the reassurance that I was doing the right thing or the thump on the noggin' when I wasn't. But I hope that I have heard the words of the Father to Jesus and realize that they were also said to me: "This is my son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased!" (Matthew 17:5 TNIV).

Are there times I don't deserve them? A bunch!

Are there times when I need them? Always!

The real issue for me, and I bet for you as well, is whether or not I truly believe them — that I am no longer a frog, but a prince. To help me believe, God sent Jesus to make sure I wouldn't miss how he feels about me.

Do I truly believe God feels this way about me?

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation — if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel (Colossians 1:21-23 TNIV, emphasis added).

What makes it hard to believe we are "holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation"?

What are ways you remind yourself that you are God's precious and chosen child?

I'd love to hear from you on my blog about these things or any reaction to this article: