I’ve never really spent time with anyone famous. I met Jodie Sweetin when I was a kid, and I was at a Sharper Image store when Scottie Pippin walked in once. But that’s about as close as I’ve ever really gotten to anyone truly famous.
But then, this last Spring, I went to my first “bloggers conference,” and there were a lot of bloggers there, including a lot of “big name” bloggers—people who have thousands of followers on Instagram, women who have businesses fueled by social media, who tweet to lots (and lots) of people. I was surrounded by many bloggers who are, actually, kind of famous–famous in the sense that thousands of people know about their lives through their blogs and photos, famous in the sense that they make their living by being known, famous in the sense that they sign books for their readers and take photographs with fans. Famous in the dictionary sense of being known or celebrated.
And if I’m going to be honest, part of me was jealous. There’s a part of me that wants fame. Not enough fame to have to deal with paparazzi or tabloids (that sounds like a nightmare to me), but just enough to be known by my name, my byline. I want just enough fame that others will pay attention to my words and my thoughts—and like them. Because, I tell myself, I write about God and I want to make His name known! The more people know my name, the more I can point others to Him, right?
There is some honest truth in this. The sanctified, holy part of me really does want all of the attention I ever get to go to God. But, newsflash: I’m a sinner. My desires aren’t all pure. And underneath my desire to write for God and His glory is something else: part of me just wants to feel important. Part of me just wants to feel special, not for God’s name, but for my own.
Wanting to Be Known
I think a lot of us wrestle with this desire. You may not care about anyone knowing your byline as a writer, like I do, but maybe you want more followers on Twitter or more likes on Facebook. Maybe you want to have a huge following on Instagram or you want to be on TV. Or maybe you want to be asked to speak at your church or you want to be known in the office as the one with all of the great ideas. Whatever it is, there’s a yearning that many of us feel for some degree of fame. It may be a small ache or a burning passion, but when it comes down to it, there’s something in each of us that wants to be famous. We want to be known and celebrated.
But as this desire swirls within me, I remember—in fact, I often remember—a short section of C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce. It’s a beautiful, eerie book, and it haunts long after reading in the best way that a book can. In it, the protagonist is headed toward the heavenly city, and he meets others on his journey who, like him, are somewhere between heaven and hell.
On the way, he comes across a procession of angels and animals and children, all singing in honor of a stunning woman who walks among them. The protagonist recounts the experience:
And only partly do I remember the unbearable beauty of her face.
“Is it?…is it?” I whispered to my guide.
“Not at all,” said he. “It’s someone ye’ll never have heard of. Her name on earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green.”
“She seems to be…well, a person of particular importance?”
“Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things.”
As readers, we learn that this woman, this Sarah Smith, was completely unknown on the earth–anything but famous here. She was someone the protagonist had “never heard of.” Yet the protagonist goes on to discover that it was love—honest, unhindered love for others in her day-to-day life—that made her famous in heaven. “Fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things,” Lewis writes. In The Great Divorce, Sarah Smith was known and celebrated by God–she was famous with God– because she was a lover of Him and of others. Her fame in heaven, there where it really mattered, was so stunning that it could hardly be described.
This is the kind of fame my spirit truly aches for. This sinful desire for earthly fame that I feel so often is a confusion of what my soul actually craves. I want to be known here because I desire to be truly known by God (1 Corinthians 13:12), but my heart confuses the two types–earthly fame and heavenly fame. Earthly fame is fame on earth, among men and women. Heavenly fame is fame with God—to be known by Him, loved and accepted and celebrated by Him.
I don’t want to grasp for fame on this earth when, by my life and my love, I can be known and celebrated by the King of all Kings.
And the great surprise is that I am already known by God, more fully and truly than I even know myself. I am famous with God–not because I am amazing or because I am a writer or because thousands of people know my name. I am famous with God because I am in Christ, and therefore I am known by God. I don’t have to get more likes or followers or fans to have the type of fame that really matters.
So yes, we want to be famous. The desire is there inside of us because it points to the deeper longing that our hearts want to be known and celebrated by God.
The good news?
In Christ, we are.