What it Means to Have a Platform

May 14, 2012 | 64 comments

 

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.

by | May 14, 2012 | 64 comments

64 Comments

  1. Christina

    Thanks, I needed this. As I work on my own book, I’ve struggled with similar questions. I appreciate your heart to honor Christ above all. Blessings to you!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Hi Christina, God bless you in your writing work. I pray now — as I write this note to you — that we would keep our fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

      Reply
    • ~Brenda

      Christina, I’m in the same boat. Working on a book and struggling with these questions. May we all strive for Christ’s platform rather than our own. 🙂

      Reply
  2. elizabeth

    Beautiful. Thank you. What I needed to hear this day. Very grateful for your weaving and working words around this sometimes delicate theme. I pray God will use your words today in a mighty way. Again, thank you deeply.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Thank you for stopping by this morning. It is delicate; you are so right.

      I really do understand the importance of measuring things by the numbers. Good businesspeople — whether they be publishers, or medical sales representatives, or restaurant owners — rely on numbers to help them measure their work, to help them make good decisions and to be good stewards of the resources they’ve been given. I needed to write this post today, in part, to remind myself not to become a SLAVE to those numbers. I want to be a bondservant to Christ instead.

      Thank you, sweet friend, for being here…

      Reply
  3. r.ellott

    we live in the upside down kingdom…to grow we must shrink…to be lifted higher, we must be brought low…to gain, we have to lose…to live, we have to die…blessings as you follow Him where He leads you as you look to be published~

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Wise words from you, my friend. You who “turns her heart to praise.” God bless you.

      Reply
      • dukeslee

        Meant to say “tunes.” Not turns. 🙂 … Though you do both things well — tuning and turning.

        Reply
  4. Kris

    Thank you for this, Jennifer, as I have been wrestling with this idea of a platform for some time. I really needed this perspective, and I am saving this to read-and re-read as I learn to to what it is He has called me to, in a way that is nothing but God-honoring. Thank you so much for this wisdom! Truly.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Hi Kris,

      Thanks for sharing here. About an hour after I wrote this, I heard a really great clip on the radio from David Jeremiah about success. I wish I could find it online to share it here, but I just went searching, and can’t track it down. Anyway, he talked about success, and how it’s ok to be ‘successful’ but that we need to make sure we’re aware of what our ladder is propped against. I thought that was a really great way of putting it.

      Reply
  5. Chris

    This blesses me!
    You know our scenario and the struggle with being able to “measure things.” That is our world…but if we were less concerned with things like platforms and measurable success and more concerned with seeing Jesus and pointing to him the measurements would most certainly be astounding.
    Thankful for your platform, Jennifer, and that you unswervingly bow in humility!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Hey Chris … I do know, friend. I do… And Scott and I are praying for your scenario and our scenario. And we’re just delighted to “Do Life” with you like that. You remind us what things to measure … and how so many of the very best things in life cannot be measured in human terms. We thank you for your friendship and your prayers — which are, most definitely, IMMEASURABLE.

      Reply
  6. Elizabeth

    Your words convicted me, especially this quote,
    “Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common as to excite little notice.” I know I’ve done this, I do this. God forgive me.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Hi Elizabeth. That Tozer quote has stuck with me for months. Decades old, and it’s still true today. It’s a word that convicts me.

      Reply
  7. Linda

    This is such wisdom Jennifer. I wonder if it, this promoting of self, has always been at the bottom of all our difficulties – was Eve trying to somehow promote herself – to be like God?
    I have been so convicted about this in recent weeks. Thank you for sharing this in such a beautiful way.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Oh Linda … so.very.insightful. Yes, I think that’s it exactly.

      Reply
  8. Ann Kroeker

    Love the intro with those sassy shoes!

    I, too, had marked that Tozer quote, Jennifer.

    It’s a lot to ponder, and you have provided some balance to the discussion–some healthy perspective.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Yes, those shoes are pretty sassy … and pretty high! That’s the thing about platforms. If you try to raise yourself up, you’re sure to fall. (I’m still not sure I can walk in those crazy-cute shoes!)

      As you know, from our conversations, I’m asking God to continually keep my eyes fixed on Him. That I may exalt Him. That I may honor Him with my words. That I would never put my own name above His. It’s steady self-confrontation that keeps a woman on her knees.

      Reply
  9. Diane Bailey

    Wow! that is powerful Jennifer. I really like the A. W. Tozer quote:

    “Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common as to excite little notice.”

    Wow – right between the eyes -Wow! I’m checking my platform now. My platform is still Blue Prints and Two-by-Fours piled on the ground.

    But Christ is being written into the blue print, the scheduling, and the name on the door. Remind me of this promise when I try to take ( and my sinful nature will try at times) a different approach.

    ~Di

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Hi Diane… Grateful for your voice here in the comment box. So nice to have you here, among a community of folks who seek to SEE Jesus, not to build platforms upon His battered shoulders. But that we would only want to SEE Him, not to be seen.

      Reply
  10. Dea

    I keep seeing (hearing) this same sentiment in different places—spoken, written, etc.

    God inspired the writers of the Bible to repeat often and I believe scholars believe this is for emphasis.

    I don’t think I should take the message lightly.

    I hold you in high regard for admitting your struggle with this. If it is any comfort, your vulnerability is a platform that helps us all understand where your heart is…of course, only God looks knows our motives. He knows them better than we know them. What a staggering thought!

    Thanks for this thoughtful unveiling of the person behind the writer.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Hi Dea …

      The world says: Exalt the self.

      God’s Word says: Lay it down.

      This is my aim, and the chief end of man: “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

      Glad you are here.

      Reply
  11. michelle derusha

    You know how much I need to read this every. single. day.

    God bless you, Jennifer!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Praying for God to continue to work mightily through your words, Michelle. Thank you for being here and for “getting” this. 🙂

      Reply
  12. Lynn Morrissey

    Oh Jennifer, how well I relate to yet another beautiful and transparent post by you, filled with gifted wisdom and great humility. I, too, have struggled with the idea of platform. It’s not a concept that I like in the way that publishers generally mean it. I love how author Kay Arthur refers to it: that our weakness becomes a platform to demonstrate God’s power. If we remember that, then I think we are willing to humble ourselves before God and be used by Him in whatever way He might choose. I certainly understand businesses and sales, but I also know that despite lack of platform God can do the impossible. If He wants your book to be published, it will be, despite whatever platform you may or may not have. Your obedience and humility are refreshing. And for me, personally, your post is so timely, because I have been praying about writing another book for the first time in many years. Earlier this morning, God led me to an old journal where I read a post from 8 years ago. I was praising God about how, though I was a little David facing publishing giants without a platform, God took me, a no-name author and published my passion book on prayer-journaling, Love Letters to God, against all odds (and even had it beautifully illustrated by a gifted watercolorist). Authors, agents, and editors told me there was NO WAY it would ever be published. It had been rejected by several publishers, including five times by the very publisher who ended up printing it. But the Lord had powerfully laid this message on my heart, and gave me the faith to believe that He would publish it. He was so faithful, and the impossible happened! I understood that this was all of God, and that no one can thwart His purposes. He alone received the credit. But then for reasons I could not understand, God told me to lay the book down and do nothing more with it. I had begun the usual interviews, promoting, etc. To simply let the book go made no earthly sense and went against all conventional wisdom. Doing so would kill the book and remove any potential platform from under me in one feel swoop. It was an agonizing decision, but I obeyed and laid my “book Isaac” down on the altar of my heart. Oh how I struggled emotionally: If a book goes out of print, how will anyone read it? Wasn’t it written to help women and to tell them about how God uses journaling to absolutely free them and transform their lives? But grace-filled author Anne Ortlund (who wrote Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman) told me, “Lynn, you wrote this book for God. Plant it like a flower on the backside of the desert and give it to Him alone.” Though it made no sense to me and was agonizingly painful (because it had taken ten years to get published),I knew that in the end, whatever we do, we must do for Him out of surrender and obedience. I knew that God was really my ultimate publisher, and the only platform to which I must aspire was the platform of the Cross, where, Jesus was raised up and where I must (as you said) bow low. The Cross is really the only place where we truly decrease and Jesus increases. I will never know who’s read Love Letters to God, but occasionally, I get a glimpse. Just last month, two women emailed me (one in Canada) and one who would like to write a song using the book’s title, to say how much the message had inspired them. What a humbling realization to receive these sweet messages, 8 years after publication, when I thought my book had died on the vine. It showed me yet again that nothing is about my person or my platform…..it’s all about the Lord, and whom He chooses to read the message He gave to me. I do not yet know if He is leading me to write again. I have little hints that perhaps He is. But once again, I’m confronted with the no-platform problem. I don’t even blog! 🙂 But I do know that when it’s He who gives us a message to share, He will get that message to those who need to read it, in whatever way He deems appropriate, platform or not. You’re a wonderful author, and He is using the messages He gives to you in powerful ways. I pray that you will keep writing, keep bowing, keep obeying. Stay under the shadow of the Platform of the Cross. Humble yourself under God’s mighty hand, and He will lift you up in due time (1 Peter). Then you will know that you had nothing to do with the platform on which He places your work. It’s all of Him.
    All the best on your writing for publication journey!
    Lynn Morrissey

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Lynn…

      I’ve been meaning to email you after your last comment, and now this one here. My apologies for the delay. I’m so grateful for your wisdom shared in the comment box … so grateful that you come alongside another writer in this way. I will send you a note shortly.

      God bless you.

      – Jennifer

      Reply
  13. nance davis

    i read this quote today, by fred rogers.

    “The older i get, the more convinced i am that
    the space
    between communicating human beings
    can be
    hollowed ground.”

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      That Mr. Rogers was a wise one. 🙂

      Reply
  14. kelli

    the comparison between Jesus and Zaccheus — just wow. Really something to think on.

    The whole post reminded me of this:
    “Anything is a blessing . . . which first convinces us that we are nothing and then makes us will to be so.”
    (Andrew Bonar, as quoted in the *remarkable* Royal Insignia by Edwin & Lillian Harvey)

    A fantastic, Christ-centered post, Jennifer. (and btw, I’d publish your book in a heartbeat if it were up to me!;))

    Reply
    • kelli

      oops! the quote was actually by Edward Payson. 🙂

      Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Kelli! Great, GREAT quote.

      With regard to the book, I’ve been encouraged by the process so far. I have a great agent, and I really believe that we’ll find the right publishing house to partner with us on this book. It’s been fun so far — even though I’m a newbie to the publishing world. 😉 Thank you for your encouragement and warmth here in the comment box.

      Reply
  15. Lydia

    What thoughts these words of yours have started in me! This is something to think- and pray- on, for sure.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thanks for being here, Lydia. xo

      Reply
  16. Cindy

    It’s interesting, or so like God that I heard this at church yesterday! Basically the minister was teaching us to pray using the Lord’s prayer. He only got through”Hallowed” be His name. The minister said if we pray for something–anything and pray only for our own good, we pray the wrong wayl The only way to really pray is for the answers to give God the Glory. I know that you want your book to give God the Glory, so I totally believe that you will find a publisher who feels the same way!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I do, too, Cindy. I believe we’ll find the right publishing house to partner with us on this book. I have a fantastic agent and feel so encouraged by the process so far. Thank you for believing with me!

      Reply
  17. Dolly

    Thank you for sharing your heart to lift Him up and not yourself…always love Tozer…praying that God will provide the right publisher for you and that you may see His hand guiding you…love your heart, Jennifer.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Dolly. In all of my life — not just book publishing — I want to really take to heart what it means to have a “platform,” and how to use it.

      Whether we’re writers or referees, bankers or boxers, pastors or pastry chefs, we all have these platforms. So how will we use them? What do we stand on? Thinking on this, for all areas of my life. I want to live John 3:30.

      Reply
    • dukeslee

      Yes, YES! Jennifer. The root of Getting Down with Jesus is that, exactly. The only way UP is down. Grateful for friends like you who model this truth.

      Reply
  18. Kathy Schwanke

    …I love that Jesus called Zaccheus down, “I don’t want you to just see me, I want you to know me, be with me.”

    Life in Christ on earth is a great paradox and a grand adventure!!!

    I love your thoughts Jennifer! Blessings on your book! SWEET! 🙂

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Hi Kathy … Thank you for the blessing. I love blessings. 🙂 …

      And thank you for taking the Zacchaeus illustration even further — not to just see, but to know. Yes, yes. And thank you.

      Reply
  19. Denise J. Hughes

    Can I just say, “Thank you!” These are wisest words on “platform” that I’ve read.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Hi Denise! Thank you. I think, in our hearts, we all know this. And I really believe that this is what most Christian publishers and authors believe as well. I suppose there are a few out there who want to promote self, over Christ, and I suppose that there are some who want to build a platform dishonorably. But I’m so pleased to see platform-building among authors and others being modeled in such honorable ways.

      Reply
  20. Jacque @ Mercy Found Me

    Thank you for these wonderful words, and I just so resonate with all you’ve said. May I be less that He is always more. Blessings to you!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Hi Jacque … Glad you’ve stopped by. Have a great week.

      Reply
  21. Alia Joy

    Thank you for these words. I took a mini break this weekend from blogging because I needed some time with family and I felt really discouraged coming back to really dismal stats. This puts it all back into perspective. I don’t ever want to lose that. A good reminder at just the right time.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Hi Alia! That can feel so discouraging. I’ve felt that way before, too. My best antidote is this: to not look. 🙂 I don’t always follow the advice, though. … 🙂

      Thanks for being here, Alia.

      Reply
  22. Leah Adams

    I think this is something that many, if not most, of us writer/speaker types struggle with at one time or another. It took me several years to come to the end of the struggle and just let go. I had to be ok with the fact that I might never have a large platform. I had to be ok with the possibility of God assigning me a local ministry rather than a national one.

    I am. Now, He is starting to grow my ministry in ways I never would have imagined. All He wants is our undivided attention. He’s like that, you know.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      A wise and discerning mentor in the publishing industry tells me that the tension is good. If I feel the tension, that’s God helping me remember why and for Whom I write.

      God bless you as your ministry grows, Leah.

      Reply
  23. Barbara

    Sp powerful and convicting for me; thank you!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Barbara. Have a great day.

      Reply
  24. Megan Willome

    Just saw this was posted in “wretch, writing.” That made me smile. As long as you keep those two words in mind, your platform will be just fine.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I wondered who would notice that. I’m not surprised at all that it was you. 🙂

      Perhaps I will keep those two words taped to my computer screen, as a steady reminder of what and Who this is about.

      Reply
  25. David Rupert

    I do think the whole platform thing is overrated. Just write. Just be you. Let God do the rest.

    Your Zaccheus illustration was perfect!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      If there be any climb at all — in any area of my life — let it be only and always to see and exalt Christ.

      Reply
  26. Gabrielle Meyer

    Jennifer, your words are beautiful and leave me with much to ponder. I’m so happy I found your blog today (via Rachelle’s blog).

    Ironically, I had a thought about platform shoes and this is an amazing connection: my husband and I lived in Ames, Iowa for two years as he finished up his degree in hoticulture at ISU in 2002 (I saw you attended there, too!) – I remember the first day he came home from class and he told me about a young woman who had been walking in front of him on campus and she was wearing extremely high platform shoes. He said she caught his attention because she was walking so carefully and looked awkward. She probably wore those platforms to be noticed – and she was, but for all the wrong reasons. She dropped something (I can’t remember what it is any more) and he said it was quite the scene to watch as she tried to bend over and pick it up without falling. He ended up helping her.

    Platforms are something we need to be sure of – something we can stand on without shaking and without falling. We want to be noticed, but do we want to be noticed for all the wrong reasons? A platform needs to be a place where we can be effective and stable, so we must choose it wisely.

    I loved Tozer’s quote – incredibly convicting. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  27. SimplyDarlene

    wow, i reckon those shoes could do some grande bug control maneuvers

    😉

    Reply
  28. Tiffany Stuart

    HI Jennifer, I had to share this on Twitter and I had to pin this. As you know I am off to a writers’ conference this week. What perfect timing. This post means the world to me. Thank you. I absolutely love the truth you have shared here.

    And so, I bow.

    Reply
  29. ~Brenda

    Thank you so much for this. I am so fearful of platforms and what they might do to my relationship with the Lord. I don’t want to be elevated above Him, and I want Him to increase as I decrease.

    Perhaps a pen name is in order. 😉

    Reply
  30. elaine @ peace for the journey

    This is all very good… every which way you turn it. I’m so very thankful for the venues God puts in our paths each and every day that don’t require high-heels or platforms, just enough humility and holy love to step as He stepped.

    Blessings to you as you continue the journey. God is honored by your life.

    peace~elaine

    Reply
  31. Jessica

    Found you through Just Write. I have never been comfortable on a “platform” I think that is why writing and blogging appeal to me, because I can hide behind a screen of words.

    Reply
  32. Janelle-A Story of Grace

    Oh this is perfection. I needed this. As I embark on writing my first non-fiction book, this is so relevant to me right now. God bless your heart and I pray you get the perfect publisher!

    Janelle

    Reply
  33. Tammy K.

    Well said!

    Reply
  34. nick kording

    Really refreshing take. Let God move the mountains is what I think…

    Reply

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