On Performance

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On February first of this year, a man by the name of Benoit Violier made headlines. His Swiss restaurant was crowned the “best in the world” in December of 2015. His restaurant named Restaurant de l’Hotel de Ville had won 3 Michelin stars, and made it to the top of France’s Le Liste above more than 1,000 restaurants worldwide. Violier was found in his home with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head. Swiss chef Fredy Girardet stated: “He was a brilliant man. Such talent, and an amazing capacity for work. He was so kind, with so many qualities. He gave the impression of being perfect.”

Almost 10 years ago, in an interview for a movie, Jim Carrey is reported saying “I think everyone should get rich and famous, and get everything they dreamed of, so that they can see that this is not the answer.”

What is our culture creating, that the pursuits of wealth, fame, and being the best are the ultimate achievements? More than that, the message seems to be that these things will finally fill the void in our souls. Maybe with enough “things,” enough accolades, enough praise from others, we will finally be able to calm the persistent voice that fearfully echoes “You are not enough. You are worthless.”

A phrase that haunts me is what Girardet noted about Violier: “He gave the impression of being perfect.” Of having it all together. Of needing nothing. Perfection, as we all cognitively know, is impossible. Yet this striving, this performance is all smoke and mirrors to somehow save ourselves. It leads to shame, isolation, and despair.

What if the answer to this existential question of worth and purpose has an existential answer? What if, upon realizing the things of this world will never satisfy our deepest longings- getting married, obtaining a promotion, an award, money, power, fame, beauty, kids, etc.- what if the response is humility to recognizing perhaps only Jesus is the perfect shape and substance to fill the inner void? It does not entail judging or minimizing longings and desires, but more acknowledging and finding rest amidst them. It’s a perspective shift from relying on yourself to showcase your worth, to resting in the worth that is sung over you in tender tones and gentle offerings. Our role then is to receive our worth, rather than to create it.

Worth is not found in what we do. If that were true then it would entail that children, the elderly, and the disabled would not have worth until they became positive contributors to society. Worth is found in who we are- our position as children of God, as sons and daughters, reflected in our character, how well we love others. Performance afflicts us all and there’s always Imposter Syndrome lurking in the background (more on that in another post).

What could our lives look like if we were kind and gracious to ourselves? What if we pursued excellence not for the sake of validating our worth, but out of a passion that leads to joy instead of despair? What if we ceased striving? 

Memorials

American culture is noted for its busyness. Friends of mine who have lived overseas in places like Greece, Italy, and Spain are fully aware that life is lived at a much slower pace. Here in America we rush around, often impatiently, trying to get on to the next event, haircut, or simply the grocery store. When we have downtime, it tends to be filled with any number of electronics which serve to numb out and distract, or mindlessly entertain. What might it look like to allow quiet space in to your life for the purposes of reflection and remembrance?

We are fickle people who easily forget, especially when it comes to God. A new challenge in our lives confronts us and the stress mounts. We think about what we can do, what more we can do, to overcome or accomplish in our own power. What Jesus asks of us is to rest in him and trust him. We are asked to remember the good things we’ve experienced from him in the past.

Reflect on past stressful circumstances and think through what you:

  1. Leaned on for comfort
  2. How you derived a sense of control
  3. What lies you believed (I’ll never make it; I’m not good enough; I don’t deserve it, etc.)
  4. What unhealthy behaviors you reverted to (over/under-eating, porn, drugs, anxiety, etc.)

When we look back at hard times and easy times, it’s important to assess what we did and how we thought and the consequences of our actions. It’s also important to note how God worked in the midst of those things. How circumstances may or may not have worked out.  Take some time to think through what God did in the midst of a previous nerve-wracking situation.

When difficult and stressful circumstances arise in our lives, it’s easy to hone in on them and allow the weight and the fear of their imposition to overwhelm us. When we remember, we can choose to shift our focus off of ourselves and our stressful situation and onto the goodness, mercy, grace, and kindness of God. We can choose to see how he is carefully orchestrating every scenario of our lives to make us more holy, and bring him more glory.

Many have heard of Moses parting the Red Sea, but not as many have heard of Joshua parting the river Jordan. In Joshua 4, to show that God was with Joshua, he parted the Jordan’s waters for the Israelites to cross into the Promised Land.  Joshua then instructed the Israelites to create a memorial of that event so that they would be sure not to forget the power of God, his presence with his people, and that he is worthy of honor and worship. They were to stack up some rocks taken from the bottom of the Jordan River. “Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever” (Joshua 4: 5-7).

We can so easily forget things that were hard, but also things that went well for us. Reflecting gives us the opportunity to give honest thanks for what has occurred in the past, acknowledge what has happened in the past, and create our own memorial. Remembering shifts our focus from our own striving to the one who is in complete control of all things. Remembering and giving thanks can bring us to a place of rest, freedom, and greater understanding.