“Props” (proper praise for a job well done) come along when we stop looking for them because we have fallen so in love with the work that approval is just icing on the cake. Well, that would be so nice, wouldn’t it?
Picture a child learning to ride a bike with a handful of family members all standing by holding their breath, not wanting to interfere. The air is tense as a nervous Mom wonders whether to stand back or closer in for the catch. The novice tricycle-graduate, after mastering training wheels, seems ready to hit full speed and find freedom at last. After all, riding a bike is the first true separation from the tiny radius of close supervision. Little Junior wants it bad. With a few shaky trials, he is really ready this time, and Dad knows it. Dad’s been ready for weeks. But what happens the minute he soars with great success on that bike? The crowd goes wild and the boy gets distracted by the sidewalk standing “O”….and just like that, it’s time for band aids and popsicles.
So it is with mad props, sometimes. Another thing that #write31days is teaching me, is to never look too closely for applause, but instead to dream past it for the gold star of influence. Influence is different from praise and echoes longer. The first time I became interested in how some people have an awareness of their personal splash in the pool, while others simply swim for a personal best was when I noticed who I was following. It was about 8 years ago, and I found myself paying attention to the ones making waves. Because of the influence of one friend, I became enamored of the concept and now it’s one of my favorite things to study.
My friend John was one person I spotted at first because he was naturally talented, jovial, and loved Jesus in an infectious way. I wanted to go where he was going, and I paid attention to why. It made me happy to see how his personal relational flare spread through groups not just because he was cool (and he is cool), but really because he didn’t pretend to be unaware of his leadership in tiny moments with un-influential everybodies. He leaned in to it, leaving a trail with his words.
I’ve recently receded from a public place of influence to a very small sphere where the people I impact as part of my work are members of groups you actually don’t want to associate with. It’s fascinating, the difference in how small I feel, as if my life is whispering, yet piercing through to truer places. And what I notice is that before, I felt like my actions rang like shouts in a room full of people, while I seldom knew if I was heard. And I cared about that. But now, in one conversation with no one listening but the person in need, I feel like my help can ripple through a life. Because all I care about in that conversation is him or her. Not amplification.
It’s kind of like worship. When we sing for the song, we hear every failed note, every pitchy tone, but when we sing for the Lord, finding a way to drown out our own issues, we throw our hearts at the throne of God, and praise. We lose ourselves, those outfits our souls don temporarily, and glimpse glory.
I need more glory like that in my life, and less of the glory that commands attention like a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
Today I just need some amazing classic Keith Green to say things for me, so here goes. And before you hit play (if you will) try to let go of what you wanted to get praise for today, and didn’t. Then think about what you lost your self doing – that sweet thing you made, that good good love you gave – that no one ever saw, and know that God smiled at you being you for pure joy and not for profit. He loved that moment. He stopped making moments and turned on YOU tube to just enjoy the view.
Nothing that you’ve done remains, only what you do for me. – Keith Green