The pop artist Andy Warhol is said to have come up with the phrase that is now known as “15 minutes of fame.” There is disagreement over whether it was actually his idea. But regardless of who coined it, the idea took hold and is now a cliché catch phrase. It refers to the fleeting nature of celebrity status. The vast majority of those who have a season in the spotlight (be it for good or ill), are soon forgotten, relegated to the trash heap of notoriety in favor of the next interesting personality, talent, oddity, or horror. “Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame,” we might be told after getting some kind of media attention for a worthy accomplishment (or an embarrassing blunder). For typically, that is all it will be – a quick bright flash, and then mundane nothingness.
As a child, I always thought it would be great to be famous. Popularity at school would have been an encouraging start – if I only could have attained it. However, the desire did not necessarily disappear as I grew older. Perhaps it changed shape a bit, but the perennial longing for acclaim followed me into adulthood. To be recognized. To be known. To be admired. To be highly esteemed. To be remembered. By the time I was somewhat more mature, I understood that this wish to be famous and/or popular was not a godly thing and therefore probably not God’s will for me. Thus I tried to bury it.
But was my hunger for attention that far out of line?
A God-Given Craving?
In his essay, “The Weight of Glory,” C.S. Lewis addresses our human desire for fame. He concludes that glory is what we are after, and glory is what God is offering us. But, of course, like so many qualities in the broken world we live in, our understanding of this attribute has been twisted to fit our fallen self-indulgence. In our “me-centered” minds, glory is merely another word for human recognition that affirms that we are above and somehow better than others. This kind of glory is typically sought by doing anything that gets people to notice and not easily forget. It will almost always involve making a lot of money, getting major media attention, being the best at something, scoring goals, turning heads, behaving badly, forcefully overpowering others in a grandiose way, and even killing on a massive scale or in a unique way.
So what does God have in mind instead?
The Bible speaks much about the glory of God – something that belongs uniquely to Him. It has always been difficult for me to get a clear picture in my head of what this is exactly. How do I concretely describe this seemingly ethereal quality of God? Is it a glowing light that surrounds the Creator of all things? Or, is it talking about His fame? Or maybe it’s both. Whatever it consists of it is part of what makes God God. We’re told that one day the knowledge of this glory will cover the earth as the water covers the sea (Habakkuk 2:14). Whether it is His fame or the radiating other-worldly glow of His presence, biblically speaking, it is an indicator that the God who is above all is near. And He wants us to know it.
It’s His . . . to Share
Though the Bible says that God will not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8), it does indicate that He has shared it with His Son, with the intention of sharing it with us, those whom Jesus has given the right to be called children of God (John 1:12; John 17: 22; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; Colossians 3:4). And this was his plan all along. He first had to make a way to bring us back into His family, through the work of Jesus. But one of the treasures in Christ that we have been promised is that we will also one day be given a place of participation in the glory that the Father has given the Son.
This is what I long to understand. However, it often hits me as merely another “churchy” religious word, void of any practical or concrete meaning for today. But it would be awesome to know it for what it really is. So, what exactly might it mean for me and all other Jesus followers to know and share in His glory?
Fame that Satisfies
Lewis, in his essay, digs into what the New Testament writers might be speaking of by pondering what it could mean for each one of us to be famous with God. That human longing to feel significant through recognition from other humans might be something that was planted within us by our Creator. If so, it was meant to be satisfied only by God Himself. That longing for recognition, to be seen and appreciated at the deepest level. No human affirmation can leave a lasting impact on us to the degree we long for it.
I look forward to that future hope when I stand before my King and hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23 ESV). To be recognized, affirmed, and rewarded by my God is the ultimate fame. It is basking in the glory that I was meant to share in. All the fame and affirmation I have sought to appropriate for myself will be nothing more than a ragged cloth that needs to be discarded. This could be the beginning of sharing in glory that is not my own, to be famous in God’s mind.
And then I imagine that my Heavenly Father will invite me up onto His stage in the New Heaven and New Earth where I will stand, illuminated by His presence. There I will share in His fame as He proclaims his love and delight in me for everyone to hear and see. I will be famous WITH God.
Prepare and Wait for the Real Thing
Until then, I must resist the temptation to seek and make my own glory. I long for it so much, I can easily find myself bent toward gaining attention, approval, and affirmation from anyone by doing things I think will impress them. But as long as that is my focus, I will miss the opportunities in front of me today to give Him any shreds of glory thrown my way. What are the activities and attitudes that impress Him? I prepare myself for His fame by walking in humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with others in love (Ephesians 4:2). It does have its price. The Apostle Paul reminds us that we will share in His glory if we also share in His sufferings (Romans 8:17). That’s a big IF and probably best left for another blog post.
My day to be noticed, however, is coming. And it will be for much, much longer than 15 minutes.
This is the fame I want to aim for. What about you?