Performance counts here in Music City USA. And why not? Everyone wants to shine, we do look for excellence, and there really is a lot of impressiveness around. In fact, the glory of God is shining through all this talent, whether or not the music is meant for him.
But there is a dark side to our culture of performance. The dark side is bondage to appearances — smiling, beautiful, impressive, attractive appearances. Nashville is a city of truly amazing people. But under the surface are also stories of unspoken disappointment, insecurity, heartache, failure, loneliness, fear, regret, injury, loss, even as the show must go on. We may well wonder, “Does anyone care about my broken heart?”
The gospel opens a door to freedom of heart by telling the success story of Someone Else: “But now the applause of God is heard — without our own hard-won performances” (Romans 3:21, paraphrased).
What difference would it make if we knew deep within that the only One whose opinion finally matters has already chosen us for a Lifetime Achievement Award because of his performance for us, in our place? Wouldn’t we relax? Wouldn’t it free our creativity to perform better on the stage of this life right now? Wouldn’t it help us cheer for someone else’s success too?
This freedom can be ours moment by moment, as we receive approval from God on terms of his perfect grace. Jesus said to everyone tired of keeping up the act, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).