I don’t think there was any point of time in my life where I could attribute myself with “popularity” or “fame” or anything of that sort. I was too negligible to become well-known. I was far too shy and introverted to build up any sort of reputation among my circle of peers. That was pretty much the reality of my existence. Sure, other kids knew I had some degree of artistic ability, but that didn’t really put me on a pedestal or anything. I had the spotlight at times during my singing days, but I was just a placeholder, just another body on the stage. I didn’t quite carry the same weight as my cohorts did, who were all either more well-known or more attractive or more skilled at their craft. I was simply filling the part.
How I longed for recognition.
How I longed for senpai to notice me.
How I longed for significance.
Alas, these were far from my reach.
I am aware how inconsequential this human desire of mine was (Ecclesiastes 1). I probably knew this was the case even before He lifted the veil from my eyes. Though coming to know Him has helped to reinforce this further on a spiritual level, I knew that fame would not lead to joy or peace on a practical level. I can’t say that I knew this from experience. I wasn’t of high standing in this area in the first place, so it’s not as if I had to be brought low (oh, how stubborn we are as to often resort to this method of learning). Regardless, I’ll admit that I still struggle in this area quite a bit.
Now I wouldn’t exactly say this was ever a life goal of mine. Not even remotely. I didn’t aspire to achieve fame for my own namesake. However, I can’t exactly say that I didn’t desire it. I cannot deny that the possibility enticed me. Maybe not so much “fame”, but rather “relevance” is what I sought. I wanted to be noticed. I wanted to be thought of. I wanted to gain the concern of others.
Did I pursue these things?
Well, not just “probably”, but rather definitely and ashamedly “yes.” I cannot say that I’ve conquered this weakness either, as it still tempts me even now.
When I performed with Legaci, we did attempt to make a career out of music. I personally sought renown in this area for a few reasons. I had pretty large images of grandeur for Legaci as a group. I wanted us to represent Filipinos (and Asians in a broader sense) in the R&B music scene and to put our “people” (for lack of a better term) on the map. I wanted to show America that they shouldn’t overlook our talent just because of our skin color or the difference in our physical features. This was during a time prior to artists like Apl de Ap, Bruno Mars, Far East Movement, and PSY hitting the scene stateside. I was proud (as a whole unit anyway, not really in myself on an individual level) and I arrogantly thought we had a shot, often comparing us to the other amateur acts who were likewise pursuing the same dream. Whether or not we had the talent or marketability, we certainly had little to show for it. What little fruit we did reap didn’t really amount to anything in the end. Ultimately, none of it mattered anyway. We were simply chasing the wind.
Sometimes I wonder about my intentions regarding my appearance. In terms of physical fitness, I know the health benefits are obvious given my mostly sedentary career and lifestyle. I know that I’ve neglected my body in this area for long time as I ceased caring due to various trials I was going through. After my most recent drive towards this goal, I’ve managed to fall flat on my face yet again, drifting further and further away from my target. What’s the point? When I get on that treadmill, or when I get that new haircut, or when I buy those new outfits, what am I doing it for? Am I merely looking to gain the attention of others? Am I trying to win the affection of another? Am I striving to fulfill the image of the alpha male that gets shoved down our throats in various marketing campaigns?
Another area I’ve pondered on this topic is social media. Sure, I enjoy checking in with my mostly distant (and no, not in terms of proximity) friends from time to time. I enjoy fellowship and engaging with others who share my hobbies and interests in various communities. However, I often wonder about my intentions when I post to such places. When I upload a new cover song, compose a blog or forum post, or share a sketch I’ve done, what am I doing it for? Am I simply trying to stir up likes or comments? Am I actually catering my compositions in attempts to appeal to the masses?
I tell myself that it doesn’t matter that nobody liked my post, or song cover, or whatever it may have been, but that’s far from the truth.
I tell myself that I’m okay with my insignificance, but that’s a lie.
It does matter to me.
I wanted to be acknowledged. I wanted to be of some concern. I needed others to find value in me.
I did care. I still do care… and I hate that I care so much.
I often joke about the shtick of this one wrestler, but the main quote from his act probably wasn’t far off from how I often feel.
“What about me? What about Raven?”
Paul called the Galatians to be careful to check their objectives both when they preach and when they receive the gospel (Galatians 1:6-10). Although the context in this passage doesn’t directly address the topic at hand, I think it serves as a good gut check for Christian living in general. Now there’s nothing necessarily wrong with the actions I mentioned previously. However, the motives behind those actions are what need to be questioned. Am I trying to be a people-pleaser? Am I looking for the favor and approval of men in my actions? In my conduct, am I preaching a gospel contrary to that which I have received (Galatians 1:9)? I need to do all things for His glory (Colossians 3:16-17, 1 Corinthians 10:23-33). A seemingly an impossible feat. On our strength and ability alone, impossible indeed. But with His help and with the intervention of the Spirit working in us, hopefully our lives will reflect this more and more.
It’s easy to fall prey to idolatry. No, I’m not talking about worshiping the gods of other religions, but rather making a god out of anyone or anything but God Himself. If you’re putting anything before God, it’s an idol. It’s easy to do, and it’s easy to lie to yourself about it. Every inch we give to our idols diminishes the attention we ought to give to our Lord. It obscures our personal display of the glory and adoration that we ought to be exhibiting for our Savior. We’re substituting His rightful place on our personal thrones, violating the greatest command which is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:36-38; Deuteronomy 6:5). Was fame becoming an idol for me? The temptation was certainly there. Whether or not any of these things (or anything else) has become an idol for you, that’s for you to discern.
How readily we put the basket over our lamps, hiding the light that we ought to be shining forth to the darkness of this world (Mark 4:21-22). How easily our mirrors often get smudged and muddied, failing to properly reflect His light in our lives. How quick we are to conform to the world, falling to these passing pleasures. We’re called to be Christ-like, and I pray that others would readily be able to identify me as His. I know I mentioned this verse before, but just as John said “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:25-30), I too aspire to this. It really would be my joy to have Him increase in my life, and as a product of this, in the lives of those around me.
The very desire I’ve yearned for is contrary to the desire I ought to have. I shouldn’t seek to love the world or be conformed to the world. Instead, I should be pointing others to Christ, not to myself. I know I don’t command much presence or influence within my immediate circles, but I hope that those who do catch a glimpse of my life are redirected to Christ. How much am I interfering with His glory being displayed in my life? I needn’t be concerned with gaining the approval of mere men, but rather to “gain” the approval of my God. Of course I don’t mean that we achieve this through works (by grace, through faith), but that I would simply be acting out the expression of my love for Him, which should be apparent in all that I do.
Help me to decrease, Lord. Help me to bear fruit for your name and for your glory. Help me to place my lamp on that lamp stand and to shine forth Your splendor, proclaiming You so that others may see. I ask You to use me as an instrument for Your glory. Use me greatly, for You are great and greatly to be praised.