The gospel and approval
You may have read this week about the death of Broadway legend Elaine Stritch (though you might know her better as Jack’s mother on 30 Rock). My Facebook feed has certainly seen a number of tributes, but one quote in particular caught my attention:
“The terrifying thing in my life is that I am just an actress. And I have to keep pushing it and getting approval, approval, approval or I don’t think I’m worth two cents. And I am starting to get over it, thank God. And I’m just sad because I don’t have many years left and I wish I had a longer space of time to think that Elaine Stritch is okay.”
It’s so easy for us to put our identity in what we do, especially in the arts, where what we do is constantly on display, and either applauded or critiqued (or both). Here is someone who was at the top of their game, respected and rewarded, and yet the admission that so much of it is striving for approval, for validation of self-worth. This is not a judgement – I feel it, and if I think that achieving that level of artistic success would change anything, I’m kidding myself. I need to keep reminding myself:
The gospel re-shapes perspective. It puts things back in their proper place because it puts God in His proper place. He sees all we do; He is our most important audience. The opinion of whoever else is listening is just not as important as His. And what is His opinion? The gospel tells us – he approves of us already. – Tim Keller
This isn’t to be confused with a disregard for legitimate critique of our work, or of seeking to do work which impacts an audience, or even of enjoying applause for good work, rather, it is to simply remember that my self-worth, my identity is not tied inextricably to this work. It is to remember that whatever happens, whatever failures I might experience, or whatever judgement I might incur from an audience or critics, it doesn’t change who I fundamentally am, because I’m loved by grace. Before I could do anything to merit applause, He who bore the scorn of crucifixion has given me his worthiness. I’m more than OK; I am in Him, and He is perfect.