Jonathan’s incident with Randy McLeod underscores the neediness inherent in our God-created flesh, whether we are believers or unbelievers.
Sometimes famous people turn to substance abuse as an anodyne. It’s a horrific realization to finally climb to the top of the pile and still feel the same self-hatred as before. Others, after years of fame, may end up trying to start charities and such. What they (and we) are looking for is meaning, purpose, security, love; we’re looking to make a name for ourselves, to feel worth something, to know our lives have counted. But that can’t come by starting charities; that’s often just another way to feel on top of the pile, or to assuage guilt for having success when so many others are starving.
The problem lies in trying to suck meaning and security from the fallen world system rather than getting it from Jesus Christ. Hopefully as believers each of us is on the move to appropriate the limitless love and power of Christ. God intentionally built that neediness inside each of us so that He could be the Supply. That’s the purpose of the Cross – to bring that resurrection life right into the heart of our neediness, to be our Source, so that we are complete and can overflow to others. He’s given us everything we need for life and godliness – that means we are no longer needy. If we’re hungry and seated at a table piled with a feast there is no need to look elsewhere.
Let’s look at it another way. Doesn’t it make you feel good when someone whose work you deeply admire praises your own? Now, in a worldly sense that’s a good thing, as far as it goes. But if we take that pleasure of being praised into a higher plane, what we’re all really looking for is a resounding, eternal, “Well done!” at the end of our lives. When our daily thought-life gets connected with that sort of Fame, the eternal kind, we’re at least beginning to be on the right track.
To paraphrase Proverbs, “Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a person who fears the Lord, they will be praised.” The worldly favor enjoyed by the famous, just like money hoarded by the rich, is a double-edged sword. It can fool us as to what actually matters, to our eternal destruction. But we can’t think we’re safe just because we’re not famous or rich; George MacDonald said it best: “If it be things that slay us, what matter if it be things we have, or things we have not?” Any of us can be easily fooled into focusing on temporal things if we don’t abide in Christ.
As the Christ-indwelt, it’s always better to take up our sword and slay the false self – the not-real self – whenever it rears its ugly head. We’re to allow God to work in us to “take off a lot of silly, ugly, fancy-dress in which we have all got ourselves up and are strutting about like the little idiots we are…getting rid of the false self, with all its ‘Look at me’ and “Aren’t I a good boy?’ and all its posing and posturing” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity).
In the end only one thing will truly matter – the extent to which we trusted Christ to live through us to others, however that ends up being expressed in our work, our lives, our families, our art. To build a life out of that is to build with gold, silver, and precious stones; it means we’re living out of our true Name and reaching for the only fame that matters.
Winner of 147 Grammys (or so), Ron Block is the banjo-ninja portion of Alison Kraus and Union Station. When he's not laying down a bluegrass-style martial-arts whoopin' on audiences around the world, he's taking care of his donkey named "Trash" and keeping himself busy by being one of the most well-read and thoughtful people we know.