My mom brought me a new pair of shoes this weekend, a strappy fun pair of heels with a tall wedge platform.
I laughed out loud at the irony. I held up the shoe and said, “Mom, when I told you about ‘platform,’ you must have misunderstood.”
Our family has learned a new word this past year — this thing called platform — and it has nothing to do with cute shoes. But it really is about what we stand for — and what we stand on.
And we’re all standing on something.
In the publishing world, platform holds great importance. It’s a word used to describe a writer’s audience and her ability to build interest in a message. As I look for a publishing home for my nonfiction book, my platform has become increasingly important. Publishers reviewing proposals want to make sure writers have an audience for their words.
I get this: Publishing houses are real businesses taking financial risks on writers.
They understandably want to know: What am I standing on?
All the world is filled with platforms. And we’re stacking them higher, just to be seen. In a noisy world, we want to be heard.
We want to know that our voices, stories and accomplishments matter.
A lawyer stacks her platform high on a reputation for winning cases.
A teacher earns accolades from parents and students, building a platform of credibility.
A blogger widens her audience with “followers and fans.”
We measure influence by the numbers: people in the pews, Facebook friends, money in the offering plate, Twitter followers, checkbook balances and end-of-the-month sales reports. The higher the number, the bigger the reward: a raise, a pat on the back, or a promotion to the glass office.
I remember it now. I remember sitting in the fold-down seat of a university auditorium. I had my bangs teased high. It was freshman orientation at Iowa State. The woman up front had us on the edges of our seats when she asked us this question: “What do you want to be famous for?”
We had been given permission to be significant. Starry eyes twinkled. We wanted to be famous for something, anything.
The world loves significance, and it even has a number to measure your Klout. If we aren’t careful, we end up shining spotlights on the self, instead of the Savior… Even in the church.
Decades ago, A.W. Tozer wrote it down: “Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common as to excite little notice.”
I gulp when I re-read those words. I have to ask myself these questions: Have I ever trusted Google Analytics more than God? Have I bowed to the stat counters, instead of to the Savior?
John the Baptist had something to say about that: “He (Jesus) must become greater, and I must become less.” I have those words typed out, a daily reminder of this truth.
But is it ever OK to climb higher, and if so, to what end?
In a culture that values excellence, is it ever advisable for a Christian to climb higher?
Just now, I remember Zacchaeus. He climbed. But why? Why did he aim to go higher? Why did he crawl up the branches of a sycamore tree, high above the crowds? I turn to Luke 19:4 to re-read ancient words. The nursery-school song rings afresh in my ears.
“So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.”
Zacchaeus climbed, not to be seen, but to see. A small man’s platform was one tree, scaled — the only way to see Jesus. Centuries later, Zacchaeus’ own climb becomes a vehicle for us to see the only One worth exalting — a Savior who went to one tree on Calvary.
I think of these two tree “platforms”:
One tree, scaled. (That of Zacchaeus.)
One tree, nailed. (That, of Christ.)
So, this question: What if our only climbing led to two greater purposes: to see Jesus coming, nearer; to focus on the Cross of Christ, clearer.
And what if we used every platform to raise the Savior higher? What if — in the event that our “numbers” did in fact rise — we used our platforms only and always as a way to see God and to point to Him?
What if the only fame became the Lord’s? What would the world look like then?
“Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.” — Psalm 57:11
What if we realized, then, that the only way to really meet with Jesus, was to climb back down again.
I run my finger along Zacchaeus’ story in my Bible.
“When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.'”
Jesus calls us to come down, and to bend lower to humble places where we always find him. Christ choose to dine with sinners. He invites me to a table where I have nothing to bring but this: my own wretchedness.
This singular truth humbles me daily.
In these places, we gather around tables and altars, not spotlighted stages. We share stories of grace, not successes. We seek the Father, not the fan-base.
In the end, the only work that really matters is that which glorifies the Father. Whether we are plumbers, or postal workers, or nurses or nannies, we are given these miraculous moments in which to exalt the name of Christ. We all have platforms. How will we use them?
If we do climb up, may we see and exalt only Him. May we never climb so high that we can no longer hear the command of Christ: “Come down immediately.”
I climb down, take off the platform shoes, and stand bare-footed on Holy Ground, before a God who measures my worth not through my accomplishments, but through the lens of a Son’s humbling sacrifice.
I don’t think I can stand on any platform at all. I can only bow.
Joining Heather of the EO.