Monday, May 14, 2012

It's A Question of Worth

When I was quite young, my dad started the process of training me how to think. One of the perspectives he warned against was a fan mentality. As I got older, my brother helped me further understand what the motivation for fan-club thinking is and how it relates to the Christian's point of view.

I specifically remember an incident early in my development. After listening to an album of a new Christian artist, I expressed, "Oh, she is awesome! I love the way...” I went on to expound her attributes. After listening quietly for a while, my brother turned to me in his slow thoughtful way, scrunched up his nose and said, "Laura, you really don’t want to be a fan.” He went on to further explain what he meant. I didn't fully get it at that point. I struggled trying to figure out why he and dad were such fuddy-duddies and didn't want me to have the thrill of being in a fan-club! Everybody is a fan of somebody or something, I thought, that's just normal. But their admonition discouraged that way of thinking and made me ponder until I matured enough to understand what they were saying.

I began to watch my friends who weren't guided around this pitfall. As they matured, they started trying to imitate their heroes. Many of their stories (I could now tell) would break your heart. I'm so thankful my father and brother (and my mother as well, mostly by her beautiful example) had wisdom to help me see the error of this mindset.

Why do we humans have this insatiable desire to be a fan of someone or something? People become fans of musicians, sports teams, movie stars, authors, painters, preachers, missionaries, teachers, nature, areas of study, a particular school or organization...the list goes on and on. We try to connect ourselves to something we assess as more valuable than we feel we are. Many times we end up actually idolizing the object of our “fanatic devotion.”

Any of us can get caught here. The legalistic mindset I've been discussing lately plays into this pattern of thought to our detriment. We idolize some particular person with the thought that, "Well, C.S. Lewis, Elizabeth Elliott" (or whomever happens to appeal to us) "did" X, "and they are Godly people I highly admire, so I can too." This lethal line of thought will take us places we would never have dreamed we'd go.

It seems to me that this drive to be a fan is directly connected to our basic struggle for self-worth. It is one of the forces we feel because we live in bodies of flesh. So many behaviors can be traced back to the forces of the "flesh" as the Apostle Paul describes them. It’s hard when we’re surrounded constantly by a culture that is screaming, "You’re worth something if…you’re rich, or beautiful, or handsome, or thin, or sexy, or tall, or smart, or musical, or gifted" in one way or another. We can even fit one of those categories of "worthiness" and yet still find ourselves striving to connect with someone we perceive as "higher up." People will go to unbelievable measures to make those connections. They’ll drive miles to have their picture taken with someone they assess as more valuable. They’ll spend money (they don’t even have) to buy things that designate them as connected to their source of value. They’ll spend countless hours following after their source of worth. When you talk to them, they’re consumed with lauding their perceived source of significance.

In the midst of all the noise, Jesus stands the shadows of the mind...asking, do you love ME? Do you trust ME? Does it matter more what your friends, your family, and the world think about you or what I think? Am I your source of value? Do thoughts of Me consume your mind? Do you find yourself trying to imitate my attributes? Are you a fan of Mine?

We’re worth something because Jesus Christ says we are. He lived and died to be our example and to bring us back into right relationship with the Father. He wants to share forever with us. He tells us that, contrary to the world’s message, we are of infinite worth and as we trust Him, we can be conformed into His image, seeking the will of the Father, loving others with His kind of love, not self-saturated with how we can allure the rest of the world to our flesh, not building our own fan-club or joining another's.
In reality, those we become fans of are not worth more than anyone else. We are fooling only ourselves if we think that connecting ourselves to other people truly gives us more worth. If those we are (in effect) idolizing are doing what they do for the right reasons, they don’t even want us to be fans. They will work to communicate and live in a way that we are not encouraged to be fans. Their goal is simply to please God. They want to accomplish His purposes in their life. They want to love and serve others as Jesus teaches. This spirit or attitude will permeate their life.

My prayer is that I will ever grow to be more like Jesus. I believe He knows what's best for me. I pray that I won’t ever drift into the mentality of becoming a fan of any person or object other than Christ Himself. May my worth be rooted and founded only in His opinion of me.

I'd like to go on record as being one of His fans. I'm certain Dad, Mom, and Big Brother won't object to that.

~originally posted in 2008; revised for this re-posting