What Matters Most: Fame and Recognition?

Every now and then I get into these moods that reveal deep fissures in my soul. These moods where I feel as if my life doesn’t much matter in the grand scheme of things, as if the little splash I’ve made into existence has gone unnoticed by all but a few.

Whose opinion am I expecting to give me meaning anyway? Whose applause when I have them will satisfy my need for acceptance and recognition? Who am I aiming to please and cavort around with and why? When is enough, enough?

Why do I dismiss the delight of those who adore me as I adore them? Why do I dismiss those few who know the God-made, Godward, me and who have glimpsed upon my vaporish glory in this life – a glory that comes from being in God and from God-delighting?

Are these moods evidence that I too want to be worshiped like God? I don’t think the sentiments wholly unnatural or completely evil. We all want to know that our existence matters, that our lives are meaningful. The problem comes when we use illegitimate means to try and obtain that recognition or when we are frenetic in trying to gain fame and recognition thus living like they are what matter most. If we’re not careful, the pursuit of fame and recognition can become our idol-gods. The temptation is always there.

We all want to be seen, to be recognized and appreciated in our existence and for our contributions. We grow bitter and depressed when we don’t receive the recognition we believe we deserve. These can ruin our lives and fool us into thinking that life is not worth living. Yet we have a God who sees and adores us (Gen. 16:13, Zeph. 3:17)

I think that Jesus shows us there is more to life than fame and recognition. For thirty years he lived in obscurity. His character was formed in his hidden life. The devil tempted him to make a public spectacle of himself by throwing himself off of the temple heights. Jesus wouldn’t do it; Jesus would not use illegitimate means to gain recognition. He would rather gain his soul and the “well-done” of his father than gain the whole world. He did not manipulate others or circumstances for his own glory. Neither should we.

Do we manipulate circumstances and others for our own advancement, for selfish gain? It is not the Jesus way. The kingdom of God operates so much more differently than we do. In the kingdom, the last shall be first and the first shall be last. Nouwen speaks of  downward mobility. Being the servant of all is the way of the kingdom – not demanding to be served and not manipulating others so that they will serve us. Servants are not always popular. As I’ve written before, servants are often unseen or behind the scenes.

When I get in these moods, I have to remind myself of these truths. I remind myself that Jesus is welcoming to all. He extends to all the invitation to be with him, not just to the cool cats. He recognizes me. He sees me. He loves me. And he sees you. He recognizes you. And he loves you.

Not everyone in the public eye will be first, not in God’s kingdom. We can faithlessly be in the Christian public eye, famous whitewashed tombs strutting about.

I’ve got to check my motivations and my priorities. The most important thing is to be faithful to God by loving him and loving others his way. Sometimes that means sacrificing the fame and recognition we desire. We must remember: we dare not use the church for our own glory. As we are faithful, God will recognize and reward us accordingly. We serve a God who sees everything. Everything-including that which is done in secret.



5 thoughts on “What Matters Most: Fame and Recognition?

  1. Thanks for this insightful reflection to which I say ‘amen’! In our media culture, being hidden is perceived as the capital sin. We gain the ability to connect with kindred spirits across the miles [your post and my comment as a case in point]. But we also face the daily temptation to be known, to be seen, to build a presence. That’s so different than being motivated by love and serving.
    I recently saw gorgeous wildflowers growing in the midst of ancient Roman ruins. Year after year they have bloomed though hardly anyone sees them [you can enjoy pictures of them on my recent blog post]. Can I work and serve regardless of whether I am noticed? That’s a question that’s especially hard for writers I think.
    Thanks for the reminder that He sees me.

  2. From one who sees the lovely Godward person you are – and so thankful for knowing that “we live before the Audience of One.”

  3. This absolutely resonates with what God has been showing me as well. Your words brought Hagar to mind calling the Lord, “the God who sees me.” So encouraging to remember He does see; all of it! When I find myself getting anxious for the recognition of others I think of a favorite quote: “Seek the Caller, not the calling, and you will run smack into your calling.” Also, my memory verse this month: “My teaching isn’t mine but is from the one who sent me… The one who speaks for himself seeks his own glory. But He who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is true, and there is no unrighteousness in him. (John 7:16,18).” Praise the Lord for His faithfulness to use us as we stumble along the path He has placed us on! Thank you for your words!

    Ps. Really enjoyed your article “Waiting on God” in The Banner this month.

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