Losing Sight of Who We Are

I watch American Idol for the moments when destiny peeks its head into reality to give us a glimpse of what it’s like to use our gifts for God’s glory. One of those moments emerged during the April 19th results show when alternative rocker Colton Dixon, after being told that he had the lowest number of votes, took center stage to belt out one last tune. Before he did, the 20-year-old from Tennessee expressed remorse over not accepting a negative critique the night before.

“I need to apologize. I wasn’t myself last night and I get it,” Colton told the judges. “And I appreciate what you told me … I’ll take that when I’m making a record.”

“You’ll make many records,” judge Jennifer Lopez corrected.

“Colton Dixon: a class act,” Ryan Seacrest added as a video showing the contestant’s Idol journey appeared onscreen.

I want to finish that well. To admit my shortcomings and send a message that life doesn’t have to be perfect … and neither do you and I. Sometimes I think we spend so much energy covering up our mistakes: there’s no time left to learn from them.

What Colton learned (and shared with viewers during a post-performance interview) was that he had forgotten where he came from. “I wanted to end tonight the way I started it,” the singer explained. “I felt like I strayed last night,and I hate that I did but I was ready to bring it back and bring my focus back.”

As a life coach, I want everyone to live with purpose and love their lives. We do neither when we say that our heart is in one place and spend all of our time in another. Colton learned this lesson the hard way when he lost part of his fan base after performing a Lady Gaga song onstage despite professing a desire to be a Christian singer. The contradiction reminds me of something that one of my daughters said the other day while we were playing ping-pong.

“Mom, will you still love me if I decide to be an atheist?”

“My love for you is unconditional,” I said. “Why do you ask?”

“Because I don’t like it when hypocrite Christians act like God only loves them.”

How easy it is for us, like Colton, to forget who we are and where we come from. The problem with believing one way and behaving another is that we run the risk of alienating the very people God has called us to serve. I don’t want to be the reason someone loses faith in me or my creator. Colton wasn’t going to be either when he dropped to his knees on stage to give his final performance to God.

“I wasn’t singing for [the judges]. I wasn’t singing for my family or anyone in the audience. I wasn’t singing for anyone at home.” Colton explained after he had finished. “That song was between me and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. … I wanted to end it the way I started it and the way I told myself I would do this competition, and I’m glad I got the opportunity.”^1

I have to believe that God was, too, because, although we may lose sight of who we are, He never does. And even the lowest of lows can be turned into a high when we resolve to finish well.

Colton Dixon Singing “Everything”

^1 http://blog.zap2it.com

Cutting Our Losses

I believe in finishing well. And that no matter how much we mess up a conversation or situation, it’s never too late to end on a more positive note.

While this philosophy works well to calm the waters of regret before they wash away our peace, it often requires an investment of even more resources at a time when many of us would be tempted to cut our losses. Resources like the time it takes to send an e-mail or a hand-written note to someone we may have unintentionally offended. Or the effort required to plan a night out and bridge a gap of silence that has been growing between friends.

I was attempting to accomplish the latter when I drove my daughters to Nebraska during their last spring break. For several weeks before the trip, I thought about calling a few classmates to see if they were available to meet me at an alumni event that was scheduled for the same weekend I was back. Because so much time had passed since our last get-together, I was hesitant to dial their numbers. I was also concerned about logistics. The event was 45 minutes away from where my daughters and I were staying; and after driving for ten hours, the last thing I wanted to do was spend more time behind the wheel. 

It’s been said that people will do what’s important to them at their own inconvenience. Because keeping in touch with friends is important to me, it felt wrong not to at least try to reconnect with a few of mine from high school. And so half-way through Iowa, I started making calls. To my surprise, every person answered the phone (even the one who normally would not have been home).

“I can’t believe you called on the one day that I happen to be home sick,” she said.

My classmate was amazed by the coincidence, but I wasn’t. That’s how God works. With gentle nudges and nagging feelings that escalate until the exact moment when obedience meets providence and a divine connection is made. It is in this moment that faith is strengthened and relationships are restored.

I saw this firsthand at the alumni event as my classmates and I reminisced about the crazy things we did to add excitement to our quiet, small-town lives. Our meeting also gave me a chance to apologize for the way I treated one childhood friend during a football game our senior year. The offense was small in the grand scheme of our friendship but, because it was one of the last times we spoke, the thought of seeing her again always made me uncomfortable … until now.

Now, it was like we had never been apart as I realized: The best way to cut our losses is not to avoid people, but to invest even more in them. And when we do, the only thing that will be finished is the distance that separates close friends.

“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” – Proverbs 14:23a