Finding God in the Dark includes a quote from Madonna: “I have an iron will, and all of my will has always been to conquer some horrible feeling of inadequacy…My drive in life is from this horrible fear of being mediocre.” (p.57)
Author Ted Kluck goes on to say how he can relate with this quote. I too can relate. Kluck points out than in America, we laud this attitude and encourage our young people to have this same kind of drive.
For those of us with this type of drive, we know the dark side of it. It’s a dark side that Madonna herself admits from within the quote. What makes the fear of inadequacy and the fear of mediocrity “horrible” is that these things have no end. You can accomplish something great, but it’s never enough. If your motivation for excellence is to prove yourself, you’ll simply need to prove yourself again. You see this with athletes all the time. They tell reporters their drive is to win the championship ring. This ring will validate them forever as not being mediocre. They get their ring, but then they need another one, and another one. Eventually their skills wane and no one wants them anymore. I’m sure there’s no worse feeling in the world for a world-class athlete to be called a “has been” or “washed up”. Only the potential call from the Hall of Fame can save their worth now, emblazoning their face in bronze forever: “This guy is not a loser. He was once better than most at the game of football. So we made a bronze face of his and gave him a yellow “Not A Loser” jacket.”
I was certainly never world-class, but it’s even hard for me to watch football now, 3 ACL surgeries later, knowing these guys are doing something I love, that I’ll never get to do again (even flag football in the park is out). It’s not the end of the world for me because I never looked to football for my ultimate sense of value and purpose. I know many who have though. The reason they still clutch to the game is not because of love for the game, it’s because of love for themselves, and the need for the approval from others they get in playing the game. And if they’ve left football, they simply look to something else to find this approval they thirst for.
Kluck points out that this unquenchable drive “negates the possibility of our ever being satisfied.” (Which, as Christians, is very unbiblical!)
So what does it look like to be satisfied? Especially for those who are like me and Madonna (that’s just fun to say)…
In my inner battles with this, I’ve learned that my satisfaction has to come with being God’s son. Romans 8:3-4 tells me, “…so he (Jesus) condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us…” What this tells us is that there is no such thing as a mediocre or inadequate Christian. If you are in Christ, you receive a 100% on the final exam. Jesus’ fully met the righteous requirement of the Law, and that requirement is now in me because Jesus is in me.
One of the best phrases I got from Finding God in the Dark was the principle of “living pardoned”, which I’ll blog about more in detail later. But when I feel like I have something to prove, I’m acting like my pardon from Jesus isn’t enough to actually free me. Like I’m before the Judge and He says, “Well you have done all these bad things. I know Jesus took your place and pardoned you, but why don’t you give me just a little bit more, a little icing on the cake? Stand on your head. Good job. Now rub your belly and pat your head at the same time. Nice work. Okay, now you’re free to go, you’ve proved your value to me.” Romans 8:3-4 tells me there’s no extra credit needed to be done. Jesus filled out the exam and let’s me put my name on it. I can live in his freedom and in the ready-made identity of being God’s son (Romans 8:15-17).
Practically, this doesn’t mean we have to sit on our couches all day, afraid to try to accomplish anything lest we fall into pride and self-validation. It simply means we keep the perspective of understanding what our job is and what God’s job is. My job is to plant seeds and water them, God’s job is to make them grow (1 Cor. 3:5-8). I’m not a terrible Christian when the seeds don’t harvest, nor am I a superhero when they do. We should offer God excellence in our work, because God is worthy of our excellence, and it’s very meaningful to know we our honoring our King, rather than squandering our lives. And when someone compliments us, we can sincerely say “Thank you”, knowing we honored God with the gifts he gave us.
Our motivation stops being to make a name for ourselves, and it becomes to make a name for Jesus. We can be faithful to do what God has put on our hearts to do, not feeling mediocre or inadequate if it doesn’t make us into a celebrity, become a best-seller, or put us in the Hall of Fame.
- Ep. 69: Pastor Jack and Becky Sytsema on being in a mixed orientation marriage and how the Church should treat LGBTQ+ people - August 8, 2022
- Ep. 68: Thoughts on Hillsong Exposed, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, & Willow Creek - July 19, 2022
- The Flip Side Ep. 67: Jack Sytsema shares about being a gay / same sex attracted pastor in a mixed orientation marriage - June 25, 2022