Tuesday, January 3, 2012
to stop worshiping at the wrong altars
A thorn of mine which has kept me gloomy is the whole business of self-promotion and that scary M word, marketing. Each day for over ten years, I've faced the fear that my fiction books will slide into limbo-land if I don't do all I can to drag them to the public's attention, but the problem is I've always felt dismally inept and inadequate. Finally, I asked myself, "Well, how did Jesus tackle self-promotion while he was living on the earth? He had the biggest agenda of anyone - reconciling all mankind with God. How did he do it?" When I delved into the pages of Scripture to investigate, the answer was refreshingly staggering.
Nothing was lower on his agenda than self-promotion. He resisted several opportunities to become famous. Instead of broadcasting his miracles, he told many people he healed to keep it hushed up for the time being. The man set free from demons wanted to go with him, but instead of jumping at the opportunity to have such a sensational fan always around to speak up for him, Jesus sent him home to his family.
When he was rejected by the people who'd known him in his youth at his hometown, Nazareth, he seemed to shrug it off. He was given a warmer reception at his next stop, Capernaum, but moved on from there too, rather than being tempted to stay and soak in all the affirmation. Jesus wasn't moved by either rejection or approval. When an adulating crowd tracked him down, he preached an 'extreme' message about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, driving the majority away. He was okay with their desertion too.
Jesus spent a lot of his ministry time with just twelve men who were mostly on his wavelength. At the end, only about 120 were following his guidance daily. He set his face toward Jerusalem not in a popularity campaign but knowing he had to die. But isn't that consistent with the baby who was born in a common stable, noticed only by a handful of riff-raff shepherds while the VIPs of the day were being hailed in palaces?
Knowing that Jesus wasn't interested in marketing himself to the masses puts a whole new slant on my decade-long angst. When I pray for unprecedented success to overtake me, is it really reasonable to expect God to indulge me in this when it was a low priority for His Son? Have I been uncomfortably seeking the affluent western god of notoriety, all the while convincing myself that I don't practice idolatry? I'm attracted by the idea of achieving 'best-seller' status and having my books fly off the shelves as soon as they're published. When I get together with groups of other authors, we brainstorm ways of 'building our platforms'. It sounds really admirable when I declare that I'm doing it for Jesus and not for me.
In the light of the modest way Jesus lived his life, am I just fooling myself that he wants my help to spread his fame? What if my desire to write a best seller 'to honour Jesus' is just a veiled way to chase personal glory? Hearing and reading good words about myself really strokes my ego. Should I feel as hopeless and gloomy as I do when these warm fuzzies are not forthcoming? When links to my blog posts and favourable reviews are ignored on Face Book, and friends and acquaintances continue holding off on reading my books, should I feel despondent? Is the inclusion of my books in catalogues really a sign that I've 'arrived'? I'm tired of playing the self-delusional game. I don't want to tread the fine line that Lucifer was banished from heaven for. Jesus said we can't worship both God and mammon. In my case, I've decided I can't follow both God and success, God and recognition.
Where does that leave me in 2012? Towards the start of 2011, I stopped writing from discouragement but it didn't work. The books had to be written. I'm happiest when I give my stories a outlet, so I keep doing it. Although personal self-promotion meant nothing to Jesus, he still went around ministering to people. I'll still keep trying to look for people who might want to hear me share my writing journey and buy my books. Outwardly, I may not change the way I operate at all. But inwardly, I have to do something. Therefore, my new year's resolution is to stop worshiping at the altars of notoriety and attention. That's got to be a far better way to live than gritting my teeth and trying to chase them. I've tried that for far too long and it's been churning me up inside. Now, at last, I'm beginning to understand why. I've got caught up in the hype of the crowd, got my path mixed up and approached the wrong temple.