God Never Promised You Fame

If you tell someone you’re a writer, what’s one of the first questions they ask?

Have you published any books?

If you tell someone you’re a pastor, you at some point get asked,

How many people go to your church?

When talking to a fellow blogger, what’s the one thing you’d love to find out?

How many people visit your site?

* * * * *

Too often, I catch myself wanting to be famous. The next JK Rowling. The next John Steinbeck. I have all of these perceptions about a life with more money, more speaking gigs, more fan mail. And these perceptions all tell me that those things would bring me more happiness.

I guess there’s nothing wrong with wanting something. I hear my buddy J questioning my martyr complex. But what I’ve found is that when reality sets in regarding the odds of becoming rich and famous, it’s occasionally accompanied by a kind of senseless discouragement. The kind of discouragement I never feel when I am simply working hard, doing that which I find joy in doing. Simply for doing it, and not for what it might give me in return.

The greatest peace I feel in life comes after I tell myself, in response to many internal arguments, But ultimately I don’t care if I never have a million fans. I enjoy writing. And I’m going to do it for the rest of my life.

* * * * *

There’s a guy at our church who comes in early every single Sunday to help set up the chairs. It’s mostly a thankless job, yet every week he’s there when the sun is coming up, and he’s there in the slanting noon shadows after everyone else has left. He doesn’t do it for the money. Or the fame. He does it because someone has to do it, and he does it because he is willing, and I’m guessing in some way he feels that he’s “supposed” to do it. I’m guessing he enjoys it.

I’m starting to see my writing that way. Setting up the chairs. One word before the next. Until I fill up an auditorium, and then if no one shows up, or only a few, that’s okay, because I’m on to the next building, the next empty space. And I’m putting up more chairs. Because that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. Because that’s what I love to do.

Why do we put such high value on people who are known? What is something you are dedicated to doing with your life, no matter the amount of recognition or money that it brings you? Are you giving enough time to this one thing?

12 Replies to “God Never Promised You Fame”

  1. There is something to be said to faithfully performing a small task with an eye toward long term goals. Writing is about helping people with information, stories, or just processing the stuff of life. Setting up chairs is about providing a place for community to happen. Even when we clean our homes for company, there can be a spirit of wanting to create a comfortable place for people to gather.

    That hard part is that results are difficult to measure, whether you’re writing or setting up chairs. However, one Sunday something powerful may happen, just as one day you may end up writing something that a particular reader needed at that moment.

  2. Definitely with you on this one, Shawn. So very much is about what we do, and not the recognition we get for doing it.
    This post reminds me of Brother Lawrence and Thomas Merton talking about doing the lowliest of jobs with the same passion and vigor as the highest ones – because it’s not about the response, it’s about the work.

    Also, thought you might appreciate this “A Blogger’s Prayer” – http://www.aholyexperience.com/2011/10/a-bloggers-prayer/

  3. I started playing guitar a few years ago. It was something I always wanted to do but for whatever reason I never did until a few years ago. It instantly became my passion. I think about playing when I’m not, and hours seem like minutes when I am playing. I’ve never performed on stage. The only people that have ever really heard me play are family and friends. 95% of the time I spent playing is in a room by myself.

    And I am completely content and fulfilled by this.

    I find myself occasionally feeling pressure to go out and perform and write songs and record them and so on. I don’t know where this pressure comes from, but in reality it’s unwanted. Maybe it comes from the desire to be heard, famous, rich, or whatever. And maybe someday I’ll turn a corner and those things will seem like the natural next step instead of internalized pressure.

    For now I’ll stick with what brings my the most joy. Nice post Shawn!

  4. You can’t blame me for the length of this reply. You asked good questions, so Imma answer ’em.

    Setting up the chairs. Yes. Indeed. The chairs come first. The writing, the revision, the lonely hours are first. And this is where the value of the work is seen. When we do work we love, and do it FOR love, we do it well. When our motives are pure satisfaction in the work, we virtually glow with peace and purpose. I have read too many books by too many well knowns that fall short of their purpose or talent or hype, because they’re written to fulfill a contract or a market. I (and I suspect you and your readers) can spot these a mile away.

    I have no idea why we place higher value on those who are known. I try really hard not to do this in my own life. You’re not really a somebody unless you can talk to other somebodies. Everyone puts their pants on the same way.

    Finally, this reminds me of the mandate Saul was giving just after being elected king by the Israellites (and we won’t get into the not so happily ever after part). “Do what your hand finds to do.” It’s really not more complicated than that, is it.

    And to be very real here: I will NEVER get rich running. But I love it, I won’t quit it and I do it because I do it.

  5. I have no problem with writing faithfully and being somewhat unrecognized. But then I get annoyed when people who write terribly still end up being famous. As a friend of mine often says, “If you don’t do it, someone less qualified will.”

  6. If I was to put this into words, like this, it would be just what I was thinking when writers block set in on me… releasing my writing from my ego sets it on fire. The Gates reopen. And if it is meant to be shared someday , somewhere, all the better, but it really is about setting up the chairs… wonderful, God bless. Hope to meet you someday… I met Jonas out at E town seminar. Best John Crotty

      1. Shawn, thanks for reply!

        As matter of fact the Beilers invited my wife and I out today to stay at their B&B just near the Counsel center, where Jonas has invited me to sit in on their forgiveness sessions tomorrrow morning. I have read Think No Evil 3 times and it has served as a real inspiration to my wife and I in our project on Forgiveness, which includes a manuscript in progress, part of which was excerpted by Penguin books in “Living with Miracles” I would love to talk to you about writing more someday, maybe if you are near this weekend please look us up at the B&B Ellmaker! If not I will send you an email soon, if you don’t mind, I sure could use some advice!
        Best John Crotty

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