I was one of those kids who was picked last for teams in gym class. Or maybe second-to-last.
If it was dodgeball day, I just kind of quietly moved toward the back wall. Which seemed like a good strategy until I was one of the last kids left on my team, and suddenly it was me against three gorillas on the other team, with everyone watching.
I started to get performance anxiety…about almost everything.
Because I learned that participating wasn’t always safe. If you didn’t have what another kid had, if you weren’t as tall or as strong or as talented, then you would fail in front of your peers. And failure wasn’t a safe option.
Participating meant failing more often then not. It meant embarrassment. It meant looking stupid.
And that’s how school started to transform me from participant to spectator in my own life.
I see students in my classroom who are on this same path.
They aren’t as talented as the kid sitting next to them.
And a pre-teen’s view of the world has shifted so much since they were in kindergarten. They are obsessed with how their peers see them. So many of them hold back, try to shrink, try to stay invisible, so they won’t be called on, or their work won’t be seen, or they won’t feel the familiar sting of inadequacy.
They would rather be spectators than actual participants. They would rather watch than do.
And look there at the church down the street.
Why, what are all those people doing?
That guy looks like he really wants to raise his hands during the worship. But he just can’t draw that kind of attention to himself. So he kind of bobs back and forth. And that woman, there in the third row. I bet she would love to lead a Bible study or a prayer meeting. But she stays silent. And that twenty-something, near the back. He’s heard all of his life that God has a great purpose for him, but he still can’t find it. He looks like he’s positively itching to get out of dodge and go on a wild adventure for Jesus. But fear of something is holding him back.
These people, they are spectators, not participants. I recognize them, because I’ve sat in all of their seats before.
All the World’s an Audience
Everywhere I go, I see spectators. Someone once said that all the world’s a stage. I think all the world’s an audience, with most of us too afraid to get up on stage.
People who are afraid that they missed out on God’s purpose for them.
But they are even more afraid to step out and participate. They hang in the back, like the dorky kid in gym class who can’t throw a ball to save his life (me.)
That’s increasingly my heart in my work and in Life After Art – helping people not be spectators in their own lives anymore, but fully participating in everything God made them to be and do.
I’m done watching from the sidelines. What about you?