I often have the chance to speak to an audience at a church or a conference, maybe at a college or a retreat.
I love speaking. I love getting to interact with a group of people that are hungry to learn and grow. Every cell in my body buzzes with electricity. My mind clears and I’m fully engaged in way I’m not with most other activities. I jump at every chance I get to do it.
And without fail, one of the first things I think about as I’m preparing to speak is, “I hope they think I’m cool.”
I’m halfway through life and I’m still worried about looking cool. Seriously??
God knows this about me, and I think he often smiles at my desire to show off. The same way I smile when one of my boys finds himself with an audience and wants them to know how he can do a somersault or climb a little higher in a tree than he did last week.
God gets it: I often look to others for validation and approval. And I don’t think he faults me for it.
But He also knows the stakes are much higher now that I’m a grown man. And that he wants to use me to help others become all that He wants them to be. And that maybe there are more important things than having people think I’m cool.
There’s a very short prayer he gave me a while back that I use every time I’m preparing and delivering some kind of message (even a blog post):
God, help me care more about what they think of You than what they think of me.
God knows I want people to like me. He knows I care about their opinion of me. This little prayer helps me acknowledge that, to own it without being shamed.
But He wants more for me than I want for myself. And He wants more for others than I want for them. And He knows the only way we’ll all end up getting more – more life, more hope, more healing, more direction – is when He’s allowed to shine through me. When He’s not blocked by my very real concern about what others think.
That little prayer – God, help me care more about they think of you than what they think of me – has been tremendously helpful over the years.
It’s helpful when giving speeches, sure, but I’ve also found it helpful when meeting with someone I care about. Or when visiting a new place or entering a new context. Or when trying a new activity. It works anytime I run into my desire to look cool in front of someone, anytime I want to influence a person or a crowd.
Because I’ll probably still hope to look cool when I’m 80 (I won’t – I haven’t looked cool since the fourth grade). And God knows that. And he smiles at me. And he says, Jesse, I’ve got a lot more for you and others if you’ll let me shine brighter than you.
So Jesus, today, help me care more about what people think of You than what they think of me.
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