What Elphaba Taught Me About Popularity

Dec 6, 2013Find joy today


When my oldest daughter was in her teens, she longed to see the musical Wicked. You can imagine my joy when I saw the musical would be in Dallas. We attended opening night and were dazzled by it.

I didn’t know, though, that God would use Elphaba to minister to me. Now that I’m in my 40s, I know I should embrace the wisdom God has for me. Snippets like:

  • It’s not worth your energy to worry about what others think.
  • You will never look like 20-year-old you, so just get over it and embrace the new you.
  • God is mysterious. Life is mysterious. Control is a misnomer.
  • Choosing joy is hard, but worth it.
  • Being comfortable and happy in your own skin is far more precious than a cool wardrobe.
  • Children are amazing but they grow up too fast. Spend time with them.

One of the things Elphaba taught me came in the song “No Good Deeds Go Unpunished.” Oh how I’ve felt like poor Elphaba, the grossly misunderstood Wicked Witch of the West. (I’ll never watch The Wizard of Oz the same way again.) Though she tried at every turn to do the right thing, something I can’t claim for myself . . . I’m so clay-footed, it went horribly wrong. People thought the worst, though the best was intended. You can hear the anguish in her voice as she vows to stop trying to be so darned good.

Elphaba’s resilience in the face of so many naysayers ministers to me. Ultimately, she plots good again. Even though.

Even though others may not have deserved it.

Even though she was probably out of strength to do so.

Even though she knew she’d be remembered bitterly.

I love that. Elphaba reminds me that life does not consist of popularity (another theme of Wicked), but of character and doing the right thing even when you’ll be judged for it. (Click to tweet) I once had a lovely talk with Dena, who shared something she’d heard. Our culture applauds and elevates talent far before we elevate character. So we place folks on a pedestal who are talented but may lack character, only to discover that truth later. So much of life and the hard-won wisdom I’ve learned now that I’m in my forties emanates from that truth. What is inside us counts. Who we are behind the closed doors of our homes matters far more than our persona. (Click to tweet)

I’ve worried about persona. I’ve asked God to sift me, to keep me humble. Granted, I’m human. I hate to admit that I love the spotlight. But I’m thankful my little piece of spotlight is about as big as a flashlight beam. As I prove myself faithful in the flashlight, perhaps God will entrust more to me. Even if not, I want to be who I am. I want to be faithful, joyful, resilient, dedicated and more worried about God’s reputation than my own.

Once the Lord said to me, “Mary, are you more concerned about your reputation or your relationship with me?” Ouch. So much of my life as a pleaser has meant scurrying around trying to make everyone like me, or pacifying those who don’t.

Like Elphaba, I’ve come to a place where I realize the sad truth that no matter what I do, good or bad, the world at large can misconstrue it. No good deed will go unpunished. But even though that may happen, I can rest in knowing I love Jesus. That I can entrust my reputation to His capable hands. That I can do good even when it hurts because I’m living for His smile rather than the fickle smiles of crowds. (Click to tweet)

It seems ironic that I have the Wicked Witch of the West to thank for such an insight. Funny how fragile, broken folks do that for a person.

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