In the middle of a meeting, my phone buzzed.
I have a semi-emergency. Please come to my room as soon as you can.
The text message was from our newest teacher, and it was one of those messages that, being so cryptic in nature, I wasn’t sure if I should be interested or terrified to discover why I was being so summoned. My initial inclination was towards terrified.
When the meeting ended, I hurried up to the classroom to see what was going on. The students had already changed classes, so I found the teacher in his room by himself. As I walked in, his grin told me it was ok to be more interested and less terrified. He proceeded to tell me a story about a foolish thing that one of our young men had done in his class. In the grand scheme of things, it was inappropriate but fairly harmless. It was near the end of the day, so I told the teacher I would pull the student out of class first thing tomorrow morning and talk with him about it.
I returned to my office just in time for the final bell to ring. I heard a knock at my office door and looked up to see, to my surprise, the student in question. I waved him in and greeted him as though I didn’t know anything about what had happened.
He said, “Mr. Browne, do you have a minute? I have something I need to confess to you. I did something really foolish in class today.”
I asked him a few questions, and he relayed the story to me exactly as his teacher had framed it. I praised him for coming to me on his own, and asked him why it was he did that foolish thing in class. His answer was profound.
“For the praises of men,” he said.
For the praises of men.
There is much to celebrate about this story – I mean, for the young man to come to me instead of making me seek him out is a beautiful thing – but it was his profound insight about his motivation that really stuck with me. Such depth of spiritual understanding is impressive for a teenage boy.
Proverbs 29:25 reads, “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” Seeking the praises of men is another form of the fear of man; we seek their approval because we fear their disapproval. We want to be accepted, loved, a part of the cool crowd. That snare is tantamount to another form of slavery: we can quickly become slaves to other people’s opinions and expectations of us. Trusting in God, however, liberates us from such a snare. We are free to do what God calls us to do as we trust and find our identity in His great love for us, and not in the temporal, shallow, and transient views of men.
That a teenage boy is already figuring that out, when so many young people his age are clamoring for the praises of their peers, is a rare and beautiful thing.
Soli Deo Gloria.