I watched an elementary school talent show last night. Nervous, excited, unsure of themselves, but bravely taking the stage. A thought crossed my mind, a question really. What if their parents were asked to perform that night? I laughed when I thought about it. Sheer terror. Panic attacks. Adults knocking down children to find the exits. 

Not these kids. I watched some children’s faces, so passionate as they commanded the stage, doing their thing, smiling their biggest. Serious joy happening on that stage. One little girl had tears as she sang, her dream overwhelming her.

Yes, there were songs sang out of key, forgotten words, notes that would make any music teacher cringe, but it was beautiful bravery. I wanted to hold each of their faces in my hands and whisper these words, “don’t stop being brave.”  This world has already taken our courage, our willingness to be transparent. If we just put ourselves out there, we risk judgement and ridicule. Rejection. 

Rejection is a powerful weapon. It’s not of Christ, but of the enemy, and he uses it to shut us down. Our deep need for acceptance and worth drives us into hiding. No more talent shows, no more pursuing dreams, or taking risks. “What if they laugh at me?” “What if they don’t like me?” “What if they think I’m crazy?” Can you see the danger of our fear? 

Our need for acceptance and worth can only be filled by Jesus. That need is not a flaw or weakness. It is God’s design to lead us to himself, the audience of one. We are enough to him. When we truly believe that, when “accepted” becomes who we are, what we call ourselves, then life becomes fun again. We have the freedom to fail, to laugh at ourselves, to risk, because it is not the acceptance of others that we need. Lady Gaga’s lyrics, “I live for the applause” is really sad, because one day the applause will stop. The tickets won’t sell and plastic surgery won’t be able to do enough. 

I don’t think last night’s show should have been called a “talent” show. It should be called a “bravery” show and  every audience who has booed a performer should be tarred and feathered apologize for their cruelty. All of the children who sang and danced last night left the stage to the sound of cheering and clapping, because it wasn’t about the sound of their voices or the choreography. 

God is not concerned with the technical merits of our dance either. (whew!) He did not boo when all of my cupcakes baked in ice cream cones fell over in the box during transport and showed up at the school in one big, sticky pile. He didn’t boo yesterday at all of my blogging typos either. He isn’t laughing because I have not had one customer for my new organizing business. 

See, people look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. He looks at his children with hope and love and cheers us on wildly. I guarantee you that when we step out into the dreams that God has for us, they might laugh or they might think we’re crazy. You see, our Father knows that when we live using the gifts that he created in us, when we bravely accept his invitation to huge adventures that only he could pull off, it is then that we know him intimately and glorify him wildly.

Hebrews tells us to throw off what entangles us and to run our race. Maybe what’s holding us back is wrong audience. Girl, their applause does not matter. It’s not needed. Take the stage, be brave, bring glory to God as you dance. 

For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7