There are people who love to be in the limelight, and people who shrink away from it. When I think of the former, I think of the class clown jokesters, who are constantly vying for everyone’s attention. Although I wouldn’t describe myself that particular way, I don’t necessarily mind attention when it’s given to me. I remember friends who, before getting married, talked about being nervous to be the center of attention on their wedding day. And I would think, “oh man, I can’t wait for my wedding. A whole day all about me? Life can’t get much better than that.” But the problem with loving attention or needing to be in the limelight is that it’s really easy for life to become all about YOU.
I’m currently reading through the Mark of the Lion trilogy by Francine Rivers. Although the books are fiction, they have been teaching my heart so much. The main character, Hadassah, is a Jewish girl whose whole family either gets killed or dies when Rome decimates Jerusalem in a bloody attack. Her life gets spared, but she is sold as a house slave to a Roman family. More specifically, she becomes Julia, the daughter’s, personal slave, and to say Julia is an incredibly spoiled, manipulative brat is downplaying it. (Literally…she’s the worst ever.)
Hadassah, on the other hand, is the definition of humble. She has not one ounce of pride or arrogance in her, and she is always respectful no matter what is being said or done to her. Even if it is incredibly unfair, unwarranted and cruel. I don’t want to spoil the book for you so I’ll be vague, but further along, Julia does something horrible to Hadassah. Something that in most people’s minds would give Hadassah every right to hate Julia and want the most vicious revenge one could think of. But instead, she continues to love Julia. She knows that God has a purpose for her, and if that purpose is for her to be a slave, then she will do it with her whole heart. She knows as she lives out each day as a slave, she isn’t just serving Julia, she’s serving Jesus. And she strives to serve Him with everything in her.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m also reading through the book, “A Million Little Ways,” by Emily P. Freeman. The current chapter is about “sinking into God.” As we figure out our art, the most important part is realizing we can’t do our art on our own. Emily defines it this way:
“In the act of sinking into God, of looking up at him from the depths of our own inadequacy, we begin to know who he is. In turn, we know who we are as well.”
She uses the story in Matthew 14, when Peter walked out onto the water towards Jesus, to show that sometimes we need to realize our own inadequacy (e.g. Peter sinking in the water when he looks at the waves instead of Jesus) in order to know our need for Jesus. When we begin looking to ourselves to do our art, that is when we will fail. Oh, we may succeed for a time, but once we take ownership of our art and become prideful of it, it will ultimately fail because we don’t have the means or abilities to fulfill what God could do through us.
I recently discovered Google Analytics. Now I can see how many people are viewing my blog, what page they looked at, what country/city they’re from, what type of mobile device they used, and a ton of other semi-stalker-creepy-type information about them. And you know what I kept thinking the first few days? “I need get more people to look at my blog!” It’s not necessarily a bad thing to strive to gain readers, fans or followers, but it can easily begin to lean dangerously over the line of becoming,”how can I make ME bigger?”
When I launched this blog, I had no idea where it would go. I didn’t even know if it would be any good. I prayed that God would be glorified no matter what. No matter who read it, who followed it or who was impacted by it. But I’ve found that even when you strive to give the glory to God for a gift or ability He’s given you, it’s still too easy to let one compliment every once in a while into those pride places, and suddenly, you’re thinking things like, “oooh I’m kind of a big deal.”
Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t or can’t be excited about our art. I’m super pumped that God is revealing my passion for writing through this blog! And I’m super excited about some other opportunities He’s providing for more avenues to expand my writing. But once I start needing appreciation for my art, spending way too much time on it, or expecting it to be the next big thing, it’s all down hill. I’m looking to myself instead of the real Creator.
In this culture, we constantly want bigger. Bigger cars, bigger houses, bigger incomes. What if we decided to strive for small? Less. Modest. Humble. Hadassah was small. Not by her size, (although she is described as petite) but by her attitude. She strives to be small so that Jesus can be big. So that Jesus can be the focus. We shouldn’t be the focus, we should be the lens through which people see Jesus.
Emily describes “small” this way:
“Small is fast becoming my new home. Sometimes it hurts to be small. We work so hard to be big, and sometimes we catch a glimpse of it. If they don’t see how big we are? Then we must become bigger. We think we have many rights and we hold them with both hands.
But Jesus came down. Became poor. Became less. Became small. He surrendered his rights to do life on his own, looking to his Father before he made a move.”
She also quotes singer/songwriter/blogger Shaun Groves, and how he describes why we should become small:
“From more to less. Served to service. From honor to degradation. From eternal to time-bound. God to flesh. Heaven to earth. Is it possible that the descending way of Jesus might be God’s way for me?
I’m thankful for the Josephs who govern from Pharaoh’s side for the good of the masses, for the Esthers who influence the influencers and change the trajectory of history.
But where are those people called by God to step down, leave behind, earn less, influence fewer, to follow? Does God only call His Son to downward mobility? Or does God call me downward too and I fail to recognize His voice because it sounds too backward?
Forward or backward. Up or Down. More or less. Follow.”
Like I said, our culture makes it really easy to strive for more. People move up the ladder to better jobs and better lifestyles. But is bigger really better? God definitely calls people like Joseph, Esther, King David and Peter to be “big.” But I think it’s because they started small. Joseph started out thrown in a pit, stripped of his clothing and sold as a slave. Esther started as a meek Jewish girl, afraid for her life to talk to her own husband. David started as a simple shepherd with a sling shot. Peter started as a common, uneducated fisherman. But they all had one thing in common: in the process of becoming big, they remained small. They made sure Jesus was the focus and they were simply the lens.
I want to strive for small. I want to put my heart and soul into everything I do, and everything Jesus calls me to do, but I want to make sure I remain the lens, not the focus. Honestly, I don’t know if I can handle big. Pride tempts me too much. Attention tempts me too much. Being “famous” tempts me too much. I see now bigger isn’t better, because there will always be something more. Striving for smaller and living in constant dependence on God is the life Jesus lived, so it should be the life I seek.
Let’s step out on the water, knowing the ending will be sinking into one of two things. Our own inadequacies, drowning us in the water, or God, His perfect will and wonderful plan. Even if it means losing everything and becoming the lowest of the low. The smallest of the small. Because that’s exactly what Jesus did.
Jesus made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!
– Philippians 2:7,8