"...And, you will be very careful that the dust the crowd is raising may not dim your vision of His face." S. D. Gordon
I've come across this sentence from the writings of S. D. Gordon in the past, and I happened on it again in the book, His Victorious Indwelling, edited by Nick Harrison (a Zondervan publication). Gordon's words in this passage are worth committing to memory. He's speaking here of the importance of listening to the voice of Jesus, following his guidance, taking the way He's chosen for us. To more clearly put it in context, here's a part of what goes before:
"If perhaps the chosen road then leads to crowds and the praise of men, you will be knowing that it was His leading that brought you there, not your own wisdom or talent .... You will also be very careful not to disappoint or thwart His plans. And, you will be very careful that the dust the crowd is raising may not dim your vision of His face." (emphasis mine)
"The dust the crowd is raising ..."
When the great soprano, Jenny Lind (referred to as "the Swedish Nightingale") abruptly left her stellar singing career, she gave as her reason her belief that her career had begun to draw her away from God and she feared that it might eventually separate her from Him entirely. She quit at the very pinnacle of fame as an international "star," to the dismay of the crowds who had crowned her with success. God's hold on her life, her love and devotion--and evidently more than a little insight into her own nature--enabled her to realize that the "dust" the crowd was raising might indeed dim her vision of his face.
My American Anthem series--and some of my other books--deal with this very issue, although I didn't plan it that way. But the subjects about which we feel most strongly have a way of insinuating themselves into our fiction, and I'll admit that God placed this particular caution on my heart almost from the beginning of my own writing career. No doubt that's why the concept appears from time to time in my novels, in interviews, and in other writings--even in a web log.
D. L. Moody, the great evangelist and preacher--and a man accustomed to huge acclaim and the following of international crowds--was known to despise the limelight. Moody often spoke of the danger of "man worship," repeating over and over again the need to continually "sink the self," and the premise that our human nature desires the "great and the mighty," but God's way is to use the "foolish and despised things."
Moody wrote uncompromisingly about this issue: "If we lift up ourselves and say we have got such great meetings and such crowds are coming, and get to thinking about crowds and about the people, and get our minds off from God, and are not constantly in communion with Him, lifting our hearts in prayer, this work will be a stupendous failure."
"A stupendous failure." Harsh words. But words that have proven all too true.
God knows all about the hazards of success and celebrity. Certainly, his Son could have been born among all the trappings of wealth and royalty instead of holding court in a stable. Christ could just as easily have singled out twelve rich and learned men, aristocrats and noblemen, to study with Him, to spread the Gospel, and to serve. Instead, He chose a somewhat questionable mix that included a number of impetuous fishermen, a tax collector, and a fire-breathing Pharisee. The King of Kings could have hobnobbed with the creme de la creme, but instead seemed to prefer the company of the lowly, the downtrodden, the very dregs of society.
It would almost lead one to believe that God's idea of success differs radically from our own.
It's not that He doesn't bring some of his people to success. Of course He does. And it's not that He doesn't use the successes of his people to achieve his own ends. He does indeed. But it's more about what his people do with success, whether we crown it as Lord or hold it loosely and sacrifice it willingly.
Let's be honest. Who among us would want to be a part of the "foolish and despised things" God may use? It's far more pleasant to think of using whatever success--or "greatness"--we may gain to "further God's glory." And it's much more natural to equate, in human terms, success with wealth, fame, recognition, respect, and prestige. Musicians might relate success to the number of albums sold, acclaim of the crowds, demand for concerts and benefit performances, and--wealth. Artists might consider success in terms of private showings, the respect of their peers throughout the art community, and--wealth. Movie stars predictably see success as "star billing," the choice of any role desired, Academy Awards, adulation of the fans, and--wealth.
And authors? Publishers knocking (even pounding) on the door, hitting the top of the bestseller charts, literary awards, never-ending requests for interviews and keynote speeches, and–of course ... wealth.
I could go on and on (and have in other times and in other places) about what celebrity and success can do, the havoc and even destruction they can wreak, on an artist's life. But most of us can look around for ourselves and see--or reminisce and call to mind--the spiritual depletion and occasional spiritual breakdown born of the deception of success. Let the point rest on the words and wisdom of those mentioned above, those who have extended warnings and admonitions more incisive than I ever could.
Stardust. Celebrity fever. Fame frenzy. The lust for success. It eventually forms a veil that clouds our spiritual eyes. It can burn ... and it can blind. It can flaw the way we view those we admire, and it can skew our perception of ourselves.
How do we, as authors, handle any dust the crowds may raise? How do we keep it from blurring our vision of God, from building a barrier between us and our Lord? How do we control it instead of allowing it to control us?
By walking closely with God, staying grounded in His Word, and keeping Him, always, as our First Love.
-BJ Hoff, author of A Distant Music and The Wind Harp. www.bjhoffgracenotes.typepad.com