I started thinking seriously about the importance (or non-importance) of becoming influential a few years ago when I was in the process of trying to become a famous writer.
I was learning all that I could about how to become a successful blogger – about building your platform, about getting lots of comments and inbound links and subscribers. I was on the computer for hours every day, reading things like 10 Habits of Highly Successful People. I was learning about SEO and online marketing and finding your tribe. Everything I did was focused on becoming influential. I watched my Google Analytics carefully, kept fretful track of my Alexa ratings.
My motives were kind of noble – at least ostensibly. See, I felt I was called to spread God’s Truth through my writing. I always had. I wanted to become an influential writer so that I could touch people’s lives and share God’s love. I wanted to become God’s tool to spread his Kingdom, and I was pretty sure that I would be most useful as a famous writer.
And I needed a platform in order to do that.
I was working hard at becoming a famous writer for God but I was going nowhere, nowhere, nowhere.
Then one night, I kind of snapped.
It was in the middle of the night, and I was sobbing hysterically in my bed. I was so exhausted. I sat up, my arms tight around my legs, and rocked back and forth, Ben sleeping quietly next to me.
I was despairing over how hopeless it all felt. I was going nowhere. I was a nobody. I was investing all this time and energy into being a successful blogger, but had no real numbers to show for it. My eye sockets were in constant pain from staring at the computer screen all day, my body felt stiff and tight. And for what?
I thought you wanted me to be a writer! I said to God. All my life I’ve felt that was my calling. But it’s hopeless. What is a writer without readers? Nothing. I’m just some dumb girl writing to herself on the internet. What’s the point?
And that’s when God spoke to me.
Now. I’m not one who’s given to frequent or particularly dramatic religious experiences. As far as religious folks go, I’m on the tamer end of the spectrum. I’m skeptical. I’m doubtful. I’m critical. I feel like maybe I’ve sensed God speaking to me three or four times in my 26 years as a Christian, and even of those I’m skeptical. But I thought I heard God speak to me in that moment.
I thought I heard him say something like this to me:
“I may or may not use your fame as a tool to do my work in the world. I’m not going to tell you. But regardless of how I choose to use you, you need to be satisfied with the reality that you may never be very influential.”
Maybe that was just my subconscious talking to my conscious self. And maybe that still counts as God speaking to me, because maybe he implanted that wisdom in my mind through fairly natural means. I have no idea.
But I’ve taken that message very seriously.
Almost immediately, I began to feel peace. I stopped caring whether or not I ever become a successful writer.
I started to realize that the almost universal desire to “leave our marks on the world” is essentially egocentric. At the end of our lives, we want to feel like we mattered – that during out time on this earth, we did something meaningful and important with our lives.
This desire is opposed to the Christian teaching that we are inherently important to God regardless of what we do, simply because God decided to bestow value on us. We can’t earn merit. We can’t add value to ourselves or to our lives through what we do.
And besides that, it’s focused on ourselves and our own feelings of self-worth.
In trying to become famous (in order to spread God’s love and expand his Kingdom, of course) I was first and foremost trying to prove to myself and to others that I was important and that I mattered — that I was able to do good. I wanted to feel worthwhile based on what I accomplished.
But God doesn’t necessarily call us to be effective or influential. He just calls us to be humble, loving and joyful. He asks us to accept his love and then spread it to others. And maybe he’ll make us useful by making us influential. But he might not. And that shouldn’t be any our concern.
If our goal is to become influential in and of itself, we’re missing the point, and any fame is therefore valueless.
I still forget this from time to time. I still get caught up in thinking that I’m only doing well as a writer if I have lots of readers.
But I try to remind myself of what I felt so strongly that night: that my worth is the same no matter what I accomplish, and that the number of people I influence is not really my concern.
Have you ever struggled with anything similar?