Joel Stepanek

After the Applause

The other day I was driving in my car and a song came on the radio. This song was by a very well known pop artist who has published a lot of music that we really could debate the moral content of all day. I went to turn the song off, wondering if it would be much of the same.

But suddenly the chorus kicked in. And there I was, driving in the middle of my town jamming out to Lady Gaga like a pop music fool.

“Yea,” I sang along, “I live for the applause.”

I couldn’t get over the hook. It was that in that moment I was transported back to a very different time in my life.

Come on, friends, let’s get nostalgic.

I Was In a Band. No Big Deal.

When I was in high school and college I played in a band. We were very good, and I’m not just saying that. People who we didn’t know bought our t-shirts and CDs. The local radio station played our music. We even did interviews. We won Battle of the Band competitions . . . anyway, you get the idea.

When you are in a band there is no greater adrenaline rush than taking the stage and hearing people cheer and applaud. Live for the applause? I get that.

Applause is affirmation for a performer. Hearing the roar of the crowd after you win a game or you finish that solo brings on an incredible feeling of accomplishment. You think to yourself, “They love me! They really love me!” Alright, maybe not something that cheesy, but you get the idea.

As I sat in my car listening to Lady Gaga (who always reminds me of Gerber commercials, for some reason) sing about how she lives for the applause, I thought about what that used to be like.

Dead Silence

As I continued to groove, I started to remember some other things. It was a rush playing those shows, and I got to do some really cool things. But as my warm, fuzzy memories started to fizzle, I remembered another memory.

I was sitting backstage, alone, while the rest of the band was out talking to people. Most of the crowd had gone home, and it was quiet. The venue was filled only minutes before, but now it was just me and some sound techs. I thought to myself, “There must be more than this.”

I guess I really didn’t find myself in the applause, but I found myself in the stark silence that followed. It’s funny – all of that affirmation was false. People liked what I did, sure, but they didn’t really love me. They didn’t even know me.

It get’s easy to live for the applause, and you don’t need to be a performer to live for it. We sometimes wind up living for the applause of our friends affirmation in the clothes we wear or the people we surround ourselves with. We live for an affirmation from our boyfriend or girlfriend that says we are worthy or we feel crushed in the silence of a poor grade or game. We judge ourselves by the amounts of “likes,” “favorites,” and “retweets” we get on social media.

Affirmation isn’t a bad thing, and we definitely need it when it is positive – but living only for affirmation can lead us to some dark places.

The moment that we only want to please people we begin to change. We are no longer who God created us to be, but who we think we should be. It is okay for a little while, but eventually we are going to find ourselves in the silence wondering if there is more than this.

The Final Act

And the blessed part is that there is. God knows you inside and out and has affirmed you by calling you His son or daughter. God rejoices in your victories and weeps with you in your sadness.

When we are found in Him, we realize there is life beyond worldly affirmation, and it all gets put into context. We see what matters and realize our worth beyond the superficial things we do, which aren’t necessarily bad, but also aren’t the biggest thing. Our hope in the Lord is the biggest thing.

And the Lord takes notice.

He is waiting for you to step out and simply be who He created you to be; to live your life like He is the only one watching. I hope that at the end of my life I come face to face with my maker and He smiles and tells me I’ve done well (Matthew 25:23). Now that would be better than the loudest applause.

Categories: MusicMy Culture

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Joel Stepanek

About the Author

I spent most of my 8th grade year in detention because there wasn’t a dare I wouldn’t accept. But in high school, my youth minister dared me to follow Christ and I haven’t looked back. I love all things Wisconsin, especially the Green Bay Packers. I can probably eat more cheese than you. (Please don’t dare me to prove it.)