When I was a little boy, I desperately wanted to be famous. It probably had a lot to do with me idealizing the lives of the children who appeared on Family Ties and The Cosby Show, not to mention the fact that my parents were struggling financially, and I thought being famous would make us rich.
I got my big chance in eighth grade when Casting Director David Rubin came to Petal, Mississippi, in search of a kid to star in an upcoming Kevin Costner film called The War. He was holding a casting call at Petal High; so with great excitement, I got my brother-in-law to drive me to what I thought would be an audition.
After I got there, nobody handed me any lines to memorize; they just took me and the hundreds of other kids, divided us into groups of 50, and herded us into classrooms. After that, a man came in, looked around the room, and dismissed us. And that was it – until I got a chance at redemption.
Days later, Mr. Rubin came to visit the rundown YMCA where I volunteered – apparently, he was still in search of the perfect country bumpkin to appear in the movie. I noticed him walking around, but I didn’t catch his eye. Later, though, I saw him sitting alone in an office, and I knew it was my moment to show him what he had missed during the cattle call.
I stuck my head in the door, awkwardly introduced myself, and tried to strike up a conversation, but he barely looked up. Not to be deterred, I started talking about myself to see if it would spark his interest, and just he responded with a tired “Oh really?” And that was the point at which I realized my personal “audition” was a lost cause and shut the door the office, feeling dejected.
If I were a little younger, I would’ve gotten that part, I thought many times after that, kicking myself for having to remain a normal human being, rather than going on to be the star I had always wanted to be.
Later on in life, different people replaced David Rubin – in high school, it was the screaming teenagers at national choir competitions; in college, it was my pastors; in law school, it was the law firm recruiters who interviewed us for summer jobs. During my single days, it was some of the young women I dated; and in my early days of writing, it was the faceless readers who clicked on my blog posts. Those people had power over me – power over my mood, my sense of self-worth, my dreams – and they had power because I didn’t know where I stopped and they began. I didn’t have boundaries between my aspirations and their approval. Basically, they were my idols.
I don’t know what your approval idol is – Facebook stardom, a pat on the back from your boss, an invitation from someone you admire; but Jesus said that if you live by the sword, you’ll die by the sword (Matthew 26:52). So if you’re going to live for the approval of others, know this: that need is sharp and dangerous, and it will drain you of your lifeblood, one incision at a time. However, the occasional payoff will keep you giving and giving and giving in order to maintain good standing with your approval-granting idol. And in the end, if you’re lucky, you’ll get applause, an enviable career, overachieving kids, a girlfriend, thousands of Facebook likes, whatever. And after gaining what you thought was the whole world, you’ll eventually look in the mirror and realize that in burning yourself out to keep your idol happy, you lost a big chunk of your own soul (Matthew 16:26).
It isn’t worth it. Lay your life down at the feet of the humble God who gave His life to prove you could trust Him. In the end, it will be His “well done” that really matters (Matthew 25:14-30).