Pause for a moment. Close your eyes. Imagine yourself as being average. Easily forgotten. Unimpressive. I bet the idea of it makes you squirm so much that you can barely sit with such a thought, can you? In a culture that esteems recognition, what should notoriety mean for us as Christians and how do we reckon with the reality of being unimpressive?
This morning, I stared at my dead cactae in the corner of my room. I watched its contorted frame, bent, lifeless, lacklustre. What was more apparent to me was its irreversible state. There was nothing that could bring my plant back to its former glory. More vividly, I was reminded of my own mortality. My yearning to be recognised and acknowledged was all contained inside this flesh which would, sooner or later, become like my cactae, withered, lifeless, it’s glory forgotten.
For “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls.1 Peter 1:24
Where do you find your worth?
Joseph Solomon, a Christian artist, begins his podcast Flights and Feelings with a powerful statement: ‘Chances are you won’t live a life impressive enough to be remembered in stone.’
Nowadays it seems as though being remembered is our never-ending goal. We must either be well-known or known well. We will only ever feel as though we have something valuable to say unless there are enough people listening to us while we say it. We feel as though we won’t be making enough impact unless there are many people watching us while we do it. Social media validates this insecurity. Numbers don’t lie – figures, engagement, analytics have become the bedrock of our worthiness. Fame, recognition, notoriety are synonymous with capital and wealth. We always feel like we need it, and we never feel as though we have enough. Our culture feeds this insatiable longing. More ways for us to build our platform. More ways for us to be seen, have an online presence and become well-known for our efforts. More ways for us to become disillusioned with wanting to be impressive and build a legacy that will ensure we won’t be forgotten.
But you will be forgotten. Your work, achievements, your contribution to the world whether public or private will be ‘covered by the dust, hidden by moths.’ If leaving a legacy of art, social impact or cultural change is meaningless vanity (Ecc 4:4), why do we still pursue it all the more? Solomon describes it as a strange almost twisted pursuit of own immortalisation. We seek to have our deeds and achievements outlive us in a way that once we die, our name immortally remains. Jesus objects to the idea, deeming these attempts as being futile;
Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.John 12:25
Be forgotten so that Christ is remembered
The idea that a man or woman would deem himself or herself as worthy of being eternally remembered, so much so that he or she spends every waking hour of their brief life holding their flame to the light for everyone to see, is absurd. So absurd because that very flame will be so soon blown out just as quickly as it was lit. As absurd as recklessly losing one’s life despite carefully and lovingly holding it so dear.
The point is, we must be willing to be forgotten so that Christ is remembered. We must desire to be unimpressive if it means that Christ is highly regarded. We must be prepared to hate our own lives and deny ourselves of our desires and longings to recognised and approved of, so that we can enjoy being eternally approved by the One in whom our lives are hidden, until He appears.
The moment our thirst for recognition supersedes our desire of making Christ known in our world today, we will have lost the true meaning of immortality. We will have traded the gift of life eternal in Christ for a few cheap moments of the world’s attention guised in false eternity.