I am wrapping up a long day at the office, commuting home after a satisfying shift of hard, yet rewarding labor.
By “office,” I mean endless highway road, of course.
By “commuting,” I mean driving 28 hours from Minneapolis to Irvine, California.
By “shift” I mean a grueling seven-week tour of the U.S. and Canada which included more than 40 shows.
homesick, yet contemplative, we sit inside our chariot, reflecting on
the highlights of yet another string of memories. The high points are
not what you might think—it’s not merch sales, moving units, or packed
shows. It’s not the buzz of kids that know the words to songs or the
night we sounded our very best. It’s not even when we played in cool
towns like Montreal or NYC. Don’t get me wrong—All of these things are
icing, and definite morale boosters. But when I think back on a trip
today it’s not the numbers that stick out in my brain. No, it’s the
meaningful, soul-searching, real conversations that are had with people
along the way that is the true currency of doing what we do.
The candid confessions and fellowship shared with another band member in the bus.
The prayer given to a hurting soul who was touched by a song you happened to write.
The person who comes to a new place of faith after post-show banter with you.
are the moments that keep you knowing you are doing something that
matters, something that is eternal, and most of all, real.
funny how the most important, life-giving moments are the ones not
spent under fluorescent skies. They are the ones that involve very
I didn’t used to feel this way. To be honest,
for the longest time no matter how many meaningful things were going on
around me, I found no satisfaction in any of it. Because when your
treasure is success for success’ sake—or when recognition is your
currency—you will never find peace in the things that truly matter. And
I was so busy comparing the opportunities of my own career to those
around me, always sacrificing the joy of the moment because my eyes
were so fixed on climbing to the next level of status.
I missed out on countless tastes of true peace because I was always bent on becoming more…important.
what makes a person “important” in the eternal sense? Is it simply the
recognition of his/her peers, or is it something much greater, yet much
more humbling at the same time?
I thought about this throughout
our most recent journey. And what brought it to the forefront of my
mind even more was when I had the opportunity to speak to others, every
night, who were on their own journeys toward meaning. The conversations
would go something like this:
“Hey Andrew, I am (insert name
here) from (insert band name, Facebook link, clothing company,
Christian gameshow here). I was just talking to (insert name drop of
relevant Christian celebrity here to make a point of connection) recently, asking them how I can ‘make it,’
and I thought I would talk to you about it as well. Do you think you
can give me some advice on how to become successful? Do you think you
can (listen, read, peruse, examine, critique, review, etc.) my (CD,
8-track, book, t-shirt, zine, short discertation, etc.) and tell me how
I can be successful in (music, writing, youth pastorship, Christian
racecar driving, etc.)? Thanks, man. Here’s my email address.”
of the conversations I had with people at our shows this summer
consisted of someone networking me to promote themselves or their band
or their … you get the idea.
Asking me to give them advice on becoming a celebrity of some sort.
questions I wanted to ask in return are these: What is wrong with just
being you? Do you think being recognized or perceived as important will
bring more peace and happiness to your existence?
answer is “yes.” We do think being recognized will bring us more
happiness, because we have become a culture obsessed. Obsessed with
what? Obsessed with becoming somebodies. We are consumed with
self-promotion, the elevation of our own perceptions. The hottest
commodity and the ultimate currency in our world today is …
is in a band. Everyone is fighting to be on TV or reality TV or bizarro
TV (also called YouTube). Everyone is pushing a new “ministry” or
“revolution” or “brand” or “consciousness.” And everyone wants to be
the man. Or woman. Or Christian gameshow host.
We are a culture of indians who are obsessed with becoming chiefs.
Because we think that will bring us happiness.
I know the chief/indian complex about as well as anyone because, well,
I have lived it for quite a while now. And I can tell you a few things
about what it truly means to become a “somebody.” Here it is, plain and
We are taught by the world around us, beginning in
Kindergarten, that recognition from your fellow human being is the ultimate
prize in this life. This is reinforced by everyone from our friends to
our parents to our teachers to our role models when they tell us, “You are a winner
if you are popular. You are great if you stand out above the crowd. You
are memorable if, and only if, you do something awe-inspiring.”
In other words, you are special only if others talk about you, if you have some sort of fame.
only problem is that 1% of 1% of us will ever become known, noteworthy,
a celebrity of some sorts. So where does that leave the rest of us?
Fighting desperately with one another to get the coveted prize, which
will always seem to elude us. It means that, at least in the eyes of
the world (including the Christian world, it seems), 99.9% will
Because there is nothing worse than being ordinary.
You had better believe this is a lie, and a big one.
there are more than a few holes in this philosophy. What happens when
you get the recognition? What does it do to us as people? What about
the model who is so beautful and loved on the outside, but who is an
absolute trainwreck of eating disorders and drugs on the inside? What
about the frontman for the band who falls into debauchery once he finds
success? What about the pastor who gives into corruption once his
church finds financial blessing? What about Britney? What about MJ?
could list a ton of examples, but you don’t need me to. Because you
have seen it with your own eyes often enough: The recognition we seek
will only leads to our destruction when we make it our treasure. Fame
leads to pride. Success leads to more temptation. Glory leads to
corruption. It seems to me like we weren’t made for these things, that
we were constructed to find peace in something else …
someone we know tell us that meaning is found in exactly the opposite
approach? Doesn’t the Bible tell us that God chose the things that are
not to shame the things that are? Doesn’t it say that God is with the
lowly things, the have-nots? Doesn’t it say over and over again that
meaning is found in service, and that true peace is found in taking a
backseat to those you love?
Yes, it does.
Meaning is not found in the acceptance of other people. And you are not
special because of what others say about you. In fact, what others
think or say about you does not alter your value in any way, shape, or
form. You are not valuable because of how many Facebook friends you
have or because your band packs out a venue, or because people read
Your value is not based on opinion.
conversely, you are not worthless if you are not recognized on the
streets. You have value, really and truly, because of who you are, not
because of who knows you. Or who you know. You don’t need to be someone
else to be great. You don’t need to compare yourself to anyone, because
no one is like you.
And finally, consider what you are running
after. There is no peace found at the end of that road. In fact, there
are just more landmines, fake friends, and hands trying to pull you
It is for this reason that God cares much more about our character than our success.
Because fame is infamy.
Andrew Schwab is the lead singer and main lyricist for the band Project 86, and author of several books.