Can We Just Skip to the Applause?

I’m sure it’s evident by now that my life is anything but boring, and I truly love it this way. It tries my patience, and it challenges me, but I do love it. I have plenty of entertainment from sunup to sundown in the form of two small performers. What makes for even more entertainment is the fact that my little performers have not necessarily mastered the arts they are trying to exhibit. For instance, my oldest has informed me she’s a VERY good dancer, even though I frequently witness a crash or a fall, followed by a quick “Don’t worry, Mom, I’m OK!”

Of all the worries a mom has for her kids, a lack of self-confidence will never be one of mine. I think my girls got extra doses. My oldest daughter was born “out of her shell.” In fact, I’m not sure she’s ever seen a shell, much less dwelt in one.

AudreyFab

It’s just in her nature to be fabulous, and no one can help it. I thought for awhile that my youngest may have been a little more reserved, but lately I’m not so sure. She seems to be learning quickly from her sister the art of hamming it up. Singing-VERY LOUD singing-is just a part of our house. Sort of like the doors, the carpet, or the smashed Cheerios in the carpet-they’ll never not be there. Audrey sings all day long, and sometimes she and her dad will literally carry on conversations in song. Willa is learning that singing will get her attention and applause, and so she has begun her musical career already. It hasn’t taken long, though, for her songs to get shorter and shorter, until they literally consist of just one note, that is quickly followed by a “YAAAAAAAAY!!!!!” and furious clapping. It’s like she’s saying, “Let’s be done with the sham. I couldn’t care less about the silly singing. I simply want to celebrated and fussed over, so can we just skip to the applause?”

I think that’s human nature. It’s certainly in my nature, unfortunately, and it’s something God has been ever-so-kindly pointing out to me. “I work SO hard. Just look at all that laundry I just did. Here, I’ll hang it up in a very prominent spot to make sure it’s noticed. Just look at all those smashed Cheerios I just vacuumed, let me wait to empty the vacuum cleaner until you’re RIGHT BESIDE THE TRASH CAN. Just look at all those …” I’m annoying myself so I won’t continue, because I think we all get the picture.

I’ve been reading Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” (basically his manifesto, or collection of important teaching) with a group of friends and it’s been pricking my heart in new ways. The thing that really grabbed me this week was how Jesus tells us to carry out our spiritual practices: without seeking attention. He specifically scorns the pursuit of applause and recognition.

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.”

How often am I doing something, even subconsciously, for the purpose of being “admired by others”? And how do I guard myself from those motives? The answer is not to stop doing good things (praying, giving to those in need, etc.). That completely defies everything else Jesus teaches. I don’t think the answer is to try really really hard to muster up the “good motives”. I’ve tried that one and it never works. It’s an effort that lacks faith or right perspective. I will never change my flawed heart by focusing really hard on my flaws. I’m only changed by focusing on who I want to become: someone who’s like Jesus. When my eyes are fixed on him, I’m free to serve, give, love, etc. out of complete devotion to Jesus, without thought to human praise. When I keep God as the object of my focus, my motives take a backseat. My senses are filled up with the goodness and praiseworthiness of him, and I forget that I’m supposed to be doing things “only for him”. I just do it.

I’ve heard it said that we become what we behold. If that’s true, I want to make sure all my attention is on Jesus. I want to be swallowed up by the beauty and majesty of a God who made the universe, and then became human like me. He sets the example of someone working humbly and without fanfare:

“See how quietly the Great God works! Darkness is spread over the earth and light comes again at dawn, yet there is never a sound of curtains being drawn or shutters being closed.”

 

—Catherine McAuley

God, the one who made the mountains and the molecules, the atmosphere and the atom, is the one who deserves applause. And yet God is the one who models humility. I remind myself often of this passage in Philippians:

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,

he did not think of equality

with God

as something to cling to.

Instead, he gave up his divine

privileges;

he took the humble position

of a slave

and was born as a human being.”

If the very God who created me and the vast universe I inhabit gave up divine privilege and took the humble road, I must do the same. So I’m seeking him, keeping my eyes on him, and watching his every move. I am playing a long game of follow the leader, and I must watch closely the object of my imitation. I’m praying that as I watch, I’ll become more and more like Jesus every day.

 

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