In 2012, a book came out called Quiet by Susan Cain and it quickly skyrocketed the New York Times Bestsellers list. The book talked about how quiet and introverted people are actually needed in society. Now, I haven’t been able to read the entire book yet, but when I first heard of its theme, I was a bit perplexed.
“Isn’t that common sense?”, I thought. Why does society need to be educated on the idea that the quiet, introverted people in society are actually more valuable than the louder, extroverted personalities? My wife, who is an introvert, found the book refreshing and once I read this quote from Susan Cain, I understood why:
The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk. Use your natural powers — of persistence, concentration, and insight — to do work you love and work that matters. Solve problems. make art, think deeply.
It then struck me on a broader level that our society is ultimately so obsessed with the “producers” and elevating their status so that people become attracted to the loudest, most self-evidently producing individuals in society. This problem bleeds into Christianity in our Western society as well. It’s become quite a big problem.
The people we tend to cling to the most are the people that “produce”. Christian writers, speakers, teachers, etc. are all elevated to a celebrity status that almost makes Christianity seem like a two-tiered system. This system could be a byproduct of the Puritan era where the holiest and most pious were seen as the most “blessed by God”, the ones who had wealth and lots of land. Or, it could just be a part of human nature. In either case, the end result then makes so many Christians who are quietly toiling in obscurity feel like an utter failure. The woman who takes care of her bed-ridden mother with Alzheimer’s, the man who helps mentor young kids in a bad part of town, the mother of three who barely is able to get out of the house…they all matter to God. They do what they do, not to produce a commodity for society, but out of quiet love. I would even argue they are more beloved than we can imagine to Him.
See, if we were to make a list of the most prominent Christians today and then compare them to the first three centuries of Christianity, we might see a very different picture of what it means to be a follower of Christ. Who do we most often seek to emulate in our day and age? The thinker? The Bible scholar? The spiritual guru?
Who did the first Christians admire? The martyr. The prophet. The imitator of Christ.
Paul writes in 1 Thess. 4:10b-12, But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need. (NASB)
Jesus wasn’t looking to make Himself famous either. There are more than a few times where He asked the people He healed to not tell anyone about what He did. He also would run away, especially when the crowds were growing larger, like the time He was teaching by the sea in Mark 4 and finally had retreat by boat into the waters.
I think it’s time we ask ourselves if Christians even have the right idea of success. The people who serve and work within their community may be recognized by the people whose lives they touched, but whether or not their influence expands, it’s not the influence that matters. We all automatically assume that if someone has influence, they must be super-godly. If you think about it, that’s extremely crazy. Justin Bieber has a lot of influence, but last time I checked he wasn’t exactly the “paragon of virtue.” Influence is not God’s currency for faithfulness. What is our reward then?
Matt. 6:19-21 (NASB) Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.