I have a friend named Laura who shows up at our front door every now and then with a cake she’s baked or a pot of soup she’s cooked. “This is fabulous,” she always says. “I want y’all to have some.” There is neither pride nor false humility in her utterance, but bare, declarative fact. Everything she brings is fabulous.
Laura’s motives, it appears to me, are as pure as any artist’s motives could be. She loves food enough to perfect her art as a baker and cook. She loves her friends enough to share her creations with them. Her pride, her humility, her self-consciousness–none of these things seem to enter into the equation one way or another. She loves the work. She loves her audience.
Last week I wrote about self-forgetfulness. Laura on the front porch with her oven mitts is as good an example of creative self-forgetfulness as I can offer. “This is fabulous. I want y’all to have some.”
That kind of self-forgetfulness in the face of one’s own good work brings to mind one of my favorite passages from “The Weight of Glory,” the sermon by C.S. Lewis. In heaven, Lewis writes, we will bask in the pleasure of God’s approval. That may sound like the ultimate vanity. But, as Lewis argues, it is the purest, even the humblest pleasure of the creature, to please the One who made you for his pleasure.
There will be no room for vanity then. She will be free from the miserable illusion that it is her doing. With no taint of what we should now call self-approval she will most innocently rejoice in the thing God made her to be, and the moment which heals her old inferiority complex for ever will also drown her pride.
Lord, haste the day.
Here’s a question, though: in a world tuned to self-promotion, how do we approach this kind of self-forgetfulness knowing that many people will assume we’re pridefully or manipulatively promoting our work? Is that possible, or should we simply concern ourselves with ourselves and hang the world and its presumptions?