A very close friend of my family used to design the rafts that would inflate when an airplane would go down over a body of water. During my families first trip to Arizona this friend took us on a tour of the building where she worked. We were able to see these rafts at various stages of production and even some blue prints of future plans. I remember being told that the rafts had very strict requirements on the time it took for them to inflate (in under 3 seconds). Her job was to continue to figure out ways to create rafts that stored more people, fit into tighter spaces and inflated faster. Although this tour was over a decade ago I thought about it the other day while I was reading Donald Miller's book Searching for God Knows What.
Midway through the text Miller discusses how we as fallen human beings live our lives like there is a small 10 person lifeboat and we are fighting to be one of the 10 in the lifeboat. We are constantly doing things in order that we win the favor of those who have a larger say in determining who is in the lifeboat and who isn't. We live as if we are constantly trying to win the approval of all of these higher ups and when we don't perform we feel as if we are going to drown or be bit by a large creature in the dark seas. We do whatever it takes to win the approval of those individuals in order to be accepted. We will talk different, wear different clothes, listen to different music and even change our entire lifestyle in order to be invited into the raft.
I read through Miller's text and felt compelled to beg God for forgiveness because of all of the times I have done the same thing. Whether it was playing baseball in high school or preaching a sermon in front of a congregation, I wanted people to like me and to applaud when I finished. I wanted to be accepted and I often would do or say things that would get me the praise. In high school baseball became my life and it literally controlled how I felt about myself. When I would go 4/4 and hit a double and a home run people would come up to me after the game and say great job or a newspaper reported would ask for a quote to fill up his article. I would feel terrific about myself and would leave the locker room with my head held high. It was those moments of glory that I lived for, but it was the times when the audience didn't applaud and the times when the newspaper reported walked on by that I was hurt the most. The days when I would go hit-less or make an error or two on the field were the days when I felt terrible about myself. I would walk off the field with my eyes glued to the ground and I would get out of the sports complex as quickly as possible trying to avoid having anyone see me. I found my self-worth in the accolades of others. As of recently I have found that I don't have to carry myself like this. I can live my life so that at the end of the day all I have to do is know that Christ is standing there applauding me for helping an individual who needed assistance or for setting aside time to spend in prayer. At the end of the day the applause of Christ is better than any packed out stadium chanting one's name.