Look, I get it. Almost everyone wants some version of the same thing—notoriety, attention, an illustrious career in the arts. I often feel pathetic over it. I question myself, Arvin, how vain are you?
I grew up hearing, “God has big plan for your life. You’re going to do great things.” The disappointment that comes when you realize the whole world is not your church congregation is typically enough to have a person disregard what they’re now happy to label “delusions of grandeur.” The path to false humility is wide and well-worn.
It’s the mercy of God that we’re able to let go of certain dreams—especially those vain ambitions aimed not at creating something worthwhile, but simply answering questions about our identity that only God’s love can answer correctly. I’ve been grateful to encounter and witness the death of certain dreams as God showed me who I really am.
You don’t need to accomplish that in order for me to love you.
You don’t need to impress them for me to love you.
I’m not waiting for you to convincing them you’re great for me to know I made you great.
Much to my excitement and humiliation, however, many dreams come back. As pathetic as I feel discussing them publicly, I can’t spell an honest “I’m sorry” over it because, frankly, being Arvin Sepehr is the only gig I’ve got.
After enough ventures fail and enough palm branches turn into nails (or worse, indifference), you start to wonder if these dreams are really God’s plan…or the glorified fantasies of a narcissist.
Thankfully, God doesn’t pour grace on narcissism.
God is wise enough to let my self-obsession dry out in obscurity until I land at a unique kind of sobriety, one bereft of the intoxication that comes when you drink your own hype.
What happens to your expectations, to that expansive universe of pressure you’ve subconsciously placed on your frail and graceless shoulders when you learn the difference between God’s plan for your life and your distortions of God’s plan for your life?
Let’s say this whole thing’s a real hoax—let’s say we’re not intended for what the world considers impactful. Perhaps there’s a larger, more eternal mindset regarding success that only the Brother Lawrence’s and Count Zinzendorf’s of the world get to realize—greatness hidden within obscurity.
Okay, sure. There’s a distinct and reserved honor and eternal reward for the man and woman who chooses to serve God invisibly. But how do you know of the examples we mention when it comes to living a quiet, faithful life for Christ?
Brother Lawrence is appropriately lauded as a man of humility, serving in the kitchen and repairing sandals while “practicing the presence of God.” Simple. Humble. Faithful. Yes, of course—look, I get it. But what about the fact that his simple-humble-faithful meditations have gone ultra-viral in the form of millions of books sold?
Count Zinzendorf is constantly quoted to young men and women like me whose entire lives have been spent in the afterglow of someone they respect saying, “God has a big plan for your life.” What’s the quote again? Oh yeah:
“Preach the gospel, die, and be forgotten.”
Humble approach, but may I point out to the purveyors of obscurity-centered Christendom that Zinzendorf failed this standard? He told us to preach the gospel, die, and be forgotten, but no one’s forgotten him!
Look, I get it. Being a big deal for the sake of being a big deal is vain, shallow, pathetic, etc. Getting caught reaching for accolades and acknowledgement is sad and self-promotional, yes. There’s nothing as cringe-worthy as catching someone demonstrating regard for their own popularity and relevance.
Our generation hates it, sure. But we’re being hella ironic when we celebrate the people who promote themselves proclaiming the dangers of self-promotion.
What I find myself asking God nowadays when I pray and read my bible and listen to sermons and journal is this, “What did you order?”
If the burning passions of my heart, the things I love doing, happen to overlap with categories of creativity society celebrates and rewards, should I quit fanning the flame?
Or is it possible that God puts great things in us and demands we pursue them for his (and our) pleasure?
The steps I’ve taken forward in my dreams coming true are microscopic compared to the scale I think about when I let myself dream. But the question I’ve relieved to come back to when I start to feel drunk on my own hype is this:
God, what did you order?
If you squeeze a tube of toothpaste, toothpaste (not brake fluid) comes out.
My struggle over the last several years has been reconciling my dreams with the self-loathing inherent in self-discovery.
God, what did you order when you made me?
What do you want to see?
What’d you put inside of me that’ll be birthed over the next several decades?
I’m only interested in emptying what’s been genuinely placed in me by God. If the scale and impact and reach of what he’s placed in me displeases the confused and contradictory Zinzendorf’s of the world, so be it.
In the meantime, I’ll preach the gospel until I die—God can decide if I’ll be forgotten or not.