At a writer’s conference, I stood outside the bookstore. I can’t remember why I needed to go inside, but I ventured in when someone stopped me. Her name looked familiar, but I couldn’t place her. The bookstore contained the books of conferees and faculty, so I had a few titles on the tables. The girl said, “So, do you write?”
Part of me wanted to flaunt, to be honest. To let her know “who” she was talking to, but thankfully decorum kept my tongue back in. (I am writing this to show you my fragile heart.) I chose instead to simply answer her question. “Yes, I write.”
“Oh that’s nice. What do you write?”
“Novels, a memoir, parenting books,” I said.
“Oh,” she said.
We made small talk as we shopped, but then I lost track of her.
Later she came up to me and apologized (oh why would she need to?). “I didn’t realize who you were,” she said, a flash of embarrassment on her face.
But it was me who felt bad, who had wanted the honor in the moment. I think I said something like, “Oh don’t worry a moment. I’m just someone who writes.”
But the interchange got me thinking about how much I do love acclaim, how I relish honor, how sometimes in this crazy writing industry that takes years and years of grit and guts and very little glory I want a shimmer of recognition. Somehow I feel that validates all the struggle. Going to conferences, I’ve seen how new writers feel in awe of those who are published (I’ve been one of those writers, and I’ve had my share of gaping). So in some ways, I want to “arrive” at recognition, to be seen, to be noticed.
And yet, I think about dear, dear Jesus, who of Anyone on the earth had the right to say, “Hey, I’m God! Bow to me! Look at me! I’ve seen heaven. I’ve left heaven to come here. I’ve paid My dues to the nth degree.” Yet, He didn’t. He withdrew. He told those who were healed not to trumpet Him but to present themselves to the priests. He longed for His Father’s glory. He stooped to wash the feet of the one who would betray Him.
And then I read this account in Luke 20:46-47. “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be severely punished.”
For wanting recognition.
For flaunting that they arrived.
For thirsting for the honor they felt due to them.
For loving the applause of man on this earth, forgetting the Audience of One.
For taking their rank and abusing it to hurt widows. (I hope I’ve not done that.)
I think back on that small encounter, how I felt, how I wanted to be recognized, and I shudder.
Jesus, forgive me for wanting the glory that is rightly Yours, for seeking honor in another’s words without first recognizing that all honor should fall on You alone. After all, it’s You who gave me the ability to string words together, You who made my life story redemptive, You who give me the breath I breathe in this moment. The honor is Yours. Forgive me for wanting to hoard it to myself. Instead, right now, I choose to heap honor upon You, to take the last seat, to learn obedience through suffering, to see any fame as an opportunity to make You famous and serve those who hurt.