When Peyton Manning was accused of using performance enhancing drugs, he hired former Press Secretary Ari Fleischer to manage the story on his behalf. It was Prince’s publicist who confirmed his death, and continues to represent him as the public mourns his passing.
Think about the Hollywood scandal du jour. All parties involved have a publicist, who is paid hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to manage the public persona of our shiniest stars. If perception is reality, publicists are paid to define who their clients are, or at least in the minds of fans and celebrity watchers worldwide. This job has become a crucial element of the entertainment machine.
They write up press releases with favorable headlines and stories for newspapers to eat up. They develop relationships with journalists to help ensure they give positive coverage of their clients. They even work to remove stories from the internet painting their clients in a bad light.
Alas, us normal folk have to fend for ourselves. Most of us are unable to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on someone to help us in these ways. But that’s ok, because we are our very own publicists and story managers. And we are good at it. Really good at it.
Even though the drama of our lives will never grace the cover of a tabloid, we still are in the business of acting as our own high-priced publicist. We desperately seek to build reality in terms of other people's perceptions, based on stories we either frantically or methodically put together.
It may be as subtle as smiling at those greeting you at church, while your insides feel like a stormy sea. Or, it might be as blatant as lying as those around you ask intentional questions.
It’s when your inner publicist consults with your inner defense lawyer to concoct and justify a false reality meant to get people off the scent. We all have done it, probably are doing it, and will be put in a position to do it again and again. The reality of what’s inside our hearts is difficult for us to face, let alone those around us whose opinions we value (and at times idolize).
"If they only knew me, as I really am…as I really see myself…they would reject me.”
That’s a scary thought. This kind of thinking is what puts our internal publicity department into overdrive, and we make them work days, nights, and weekends, to make sure that the public persona we put forward it acceptable to those around us. This is the essence of fear of man, valuing the opinions of others, whether it’s real or projected onto them, as the means by which we form identity. How we define ourselves. How we determine our value and worth as people.
I am valued by others, therefore I am.
Here's the question for the follower of Christ: Do I trust the storyline given me in Scripture about who I am, why I’m here, and what my future holds? Or, do I seek to manage my own story that answers these questions in ways that I control? Am I just the sum of my experiences and choices? Am I what people think or say I am? Or, am I who God says that I am. What narrative will you choose? How will you form identity? How will you define yourself?
I am valued by others for what I do or don’t do, therefore I am. I am valued by others based on what I post to social media, therefore I am.
The unfortunate part of all of this for the believer is that it’s a flat-out rejection of God’s definition of his children. Justified. Adopted. United to Christ. Beloved. Forgiven. Recipients of mercy, grace, and love. It’s choosing to manage our own stories rather than rest and delight in his grand story of redemption! In Christ, we have a much better story.
The table of contents looks something like this:
- Known Before Birth
- Born Into Sin
- Children of Wrath
- Drawn by the Father
- Awoken by the Spirit
- Growing in Grace
- Eternal Union with the Lord Jesus
These are wonderful chapters headings given to every child of God. The content of the chapters looks much the same, though varying in the details. Where you may have come to faith at a young age, I trusted Christ in my early twenties. Where you may have battled one particular remnant of the flesh, I tend to battle others. I may have experienced deep hurt in some ways that you never will.
But the story isn’t ours to edit. It’s not ours to fabricate. We do not get to plan the events of our lives to come. It’s not our story, but God’s story of faithful redemption to a rebellious people. Knowing us in every way, seeing the depth of our rebellion, while we were yet enemies, Christ died for us. Fully known, yet deeply loved.
Because of Jesus’ perfect obedience, his sacrificial death, and amazing resurrection, we can fire our inner publicists and defense lawyers. They don’t have any real work to do anymore. No podiums to stand behind, giving the press an alternative way of looking at our lives. No press releases to write that makes us appear more amazing than we really are. No stories on the internet to hunt out and delete.
We are justified, there’s therefore now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. We are adopted into God’s family, there’s no separation and alienation anymore. We are united to Christ, no rumors of affairs and impropriety on our part or his. As far as our Father is concerned, our story is Jesus’ story and it’s full of deep relational connection and faithfulness. It’s marked by temptation, but not by sin. It’s marked by suffering, but not by doubt.
It’s marked by sacrifice, but displays the greatest victory ever won.
We can let people know the storm that rages inside. We can tell the truth, even though we are scared of how people will respond. We can let others encourage us as long as it’s called today, so that we are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. We can confess, one to another, knowing that in Christ we are forgiven and can face reality and our own hearts by faith.
Missional Communities can be places where the beautiful story of love and mercy and grace crashes up against the false narratives we have constructed. Relationships can be real and deep. Iron can truly sharpen iron. Weeping with those who weep can actually take place.
So, there’s no story for us to manage anymore. We can rest in a better narrative of mercy, grace, love, and forgiveness made possible in Christ. May we believe, remind one another, and invite others to fire their inner publicist.