Remember when I did my book review on 40 Days Without Food, by Russ Masterson?
Well, I’ve got more to share! I’ve been corresponding with one of the publishers, and I’ve been permitted to share an excerpt from the book, as well as a commentary on the selection from the author! Sort of a semi-guest-post, I guess you could call it. Here you go!
Taken from Day 38:
Some recognition is nice, but floods of it warps us. We can become applause-needy, craving it for survival while cheapening ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with recognition but needing it for self worth is a waste. All this achievement and making something of yourself in the world, is really about us justifying our existence. It’s us convincing ourselves that we matter.
I realize the default within me is to achieve my way into worth, and thus my identity becomes the sum of my achievements, or the lack thereof. In high school when I played basketball I kept two scores in my head, the one on the scoreboard that dictated if we won or loss, and the amount of points I had scored. I knew if I scored twelve points my name would be in the paper the next day, and I never would’ve admitted it then, but I loved having my name in the paper. I’d read it in the morning, think about it all day, sometimes for two days, and feel like I really mattered. But then the next game would come, and another twelve points would be needed. This didn’t stop in high school. I still catch myself hugging illusions. Satisfied for a while, then needing another twelve points. And through it all a haunting question forms, “What if I don’t perform or achieve?”
What if I only score eight points?
What if the job goes away?
What if I never make X amount per year?
What if I’m never noticed?
Our justification for existence, for meaning, can’t lie in achievement because one day we will fail. Then the self-worth we thought was so secure will crumble, and devastation will arrive–or at least depression. Failing is inevitable, and if we decide to war with this dragon, we’ll only die of exhaustion. We are left helpless, unjustified in our existence. We are left only to find our worth outside ourselves. But this is the rescuing truth: our validity is found outside ourselves, and it isn’t earned. It’s given by the One who created us. Meaning, justification for our existence comes from the same place we find justification from our mistakes. It’s a gift from God through the completed work of Christ.
Being somebody when you are somebody is easy. It’s also unstable, because you have to maintain your somebody-ness. But what if you could be somebody when you are a nobody? That’s freedom. We are important because we are his created. This brings freedom. If you know God and he knows you, then everything you do matters, even if there’s no recognition. If you don’t know you’re important before you achieve, you will become a slave to your achievement or the pursuit of it.
Excerpted from 40 Days Without Food by Russ Masterson. Copyright 2011 by Russ Masterson. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.
Commentary from the author, Russ Masterson:
“I wrote these thoughts out of a needy place. I was working a job I didn’t love, a good job but one that would never earn applause. I was wrestling with these issues of recognition and validation. I think this is a huge issue whether you’re in a dead-end job or stay at home with your kids. We want to feel important, but the illusion is that mattering can be secured by accomplishing things.
I re-read this passage a few minutes ago, and I can see how much I’m still learning this lesson. I now have the job I want and a book published for people to read, yet I still have to matter outside of those things or else I’m a slave to them. This is true whether you’re an author, CEO, janitor, or a mom who home-schools her kids.”