Years ago I worked with a man who had an insatiable desire to impress. When he gave presentations, he never used a one-syllable word when a four-syllable word was at hand (or at least on the shelf). When he told me of his client visits, he eulogized his eloquence and waxed lyrical about his wisdom.
Self-acclaim obscured clarity; self-admiration overshadowed expression; and self-tribute was always the topic. When he did something well, he made sure you knew it.
You may know someone like him.
I’m not sure what got me thinking about him today, but my mind kept replaying past scenes of his self-praise.
Later on I read the story of the prophet Nathan addressing King David after David’s adultery. Nathan tells the story of a rich man with many flocks stealing a poor man’s deeply beloved and only lamb. David was enraged at the injustice. Then Nathan said,
“Thou art the man” (2 Samuel 12:7, KJV).
As I thought of my impression-needy friend, I heard God say, “Sam, Thou art the man” It was an arrow in the heart. (You’ve got to hear it in King James English)
Hearing, “Thou art the man,” made me gasp, “Who? Me? What had I done?”
Well, let me tell you.
About eight months ago, I felt God ask me to make a priority of two things: time to reflect with God on things he was speaking to me, and time to express it. That was it. Reflect on what God was speaking to me, and express it.
I wrote articles on my reflections and posted them. Some articles were well received and some were ignored.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article that created lots of buzz. Response to it was several times higher than anything previous. People emailed me, some phoned me, and many commented on reddit.com and on my blog.
I liked it!
As I sat down to write this article, I began to think of controversial issues or witty titles or clever rhetoric. I was thinking of how to impress.
Then God said to me, “Thou art the man.” I mean, he nailed me. I had moved from wanting to express (what he’d been given me) to wanting to impress. I was that man.
The pulpit and the word
My dad was a pastor. He told me there were two ways to prepare a sermon, “You can let the pulpit drive you to the word, or you can let the word drive you to the pulpit.”
He said, “You can let the need for affirmation motivate you, or you can simply let God’s word speak to you and let his fullness motivate you.” The first way speaks out of an inner emptiness trying to get filled, and the second way speaks out of an inner fullness simply offering what you’ve already been given.
What about you?
(Bear with me as I go off on a short digression. It will connect back. I promise.)
We are all made in God’s image; we are creators and artists. Some take the raw materials of soil and seed and create gardens, and some take the raw materials of pain and empathy and create encouragement.
God has given each one of us treasures to bring to the world: life, hope, clarity, peace, kindness, and food for the poor.
Let’s not be stingy in offering what he has given us. Let’s not say, “Who me? What do I have to offer?” He has given each one of us treasures to bring to the world.
But let’s not offer in order to impress. Offering means we are giving, giving out of our fullness. Impressing means we are taking, taking admiration and applause to fill our emptiness.
So why this article?
As I reflected on my miss-motivated desire to impress, I confessed it to God. I admitted, “I was looking for love in all the wrong places” (sorry, I couldn’t resist). And I felt God tell me to write out of my weakness.
Because my weakness (not my impressiveness!) is what God is speaking to me about. As I reflected on my weakness and how to express it, I heard God say,
“Sam, You dah man.” It filled me with a fullness of his love.
So, what do you think?
- Do you ever find yourself desperately trying to impress rather than offer?
- Do you know the treasures God has uniquely given you to offer?
- Are you willing to offer what God has given you—as an artist not as a leech?