I was discussing with some friends the other evening at dinner about the proofreading of my children’s book. I have been talking about releasing it for over two years, but it has been important to me to make sure it reads with the intention I wish for it to read and that it can be understood by children. So, I have trusted friends read it and make critiques.
Children are the true field of harvest…we can impress their hearts with truth and nothing will steal it from them, even decades after they have been touched by it. If you wish to change the world, reach children with the seeds of Gospel truth…any way you can!
They had kind comments for me… my dinner friends that is, and my heart was warmed by their encouragement. But around 3 in the morning I was awakened by…what I can only explain as the voice of the Lord. He asked,
“What if no one knows your name?” It was as though someone had shaken me to consciousness.
Blinking awake, He repeated the question, although it was unnecessary, because God is confident that when He speaks, we fully understand what has been said.
“What if no one knows your name?” The question broke me…it reduced me to tears and I convulsed as God revealed my heart to me. It wasn’t just a question, it was the Holy Spirit tearing open the veil of my soul to reveal to me what lay beneath the public persona of “humility” I had portrayed for too long. God is the only One I know of who; can tear asunder seemingly innocent motives, to show their maggot-filled interiors. My interior was exposed in all of its nakedness and I caught a glimpse of what it will be like standing before the Judgment Seat of Christ…exposed.
Like always, the Lord was gentle after wielding His sword. Quivering raw flesh was healed over and calm wrapped around me like a warm blanket. I was exhausted and yet, I received the energy (this is the only way to explain it), to sit up in bed as He asked me, “What if I am the only one to know what you have written?” “What if your books aren’t celebrated?” “Will you be disappointed leaving your legacy in My hands after you die?”
These questions were all about my MOTIVES. Why do I write…and turning this to you my dear reader, what will happen if no one knows YOUR name after you are gone? You and I are no better than those who have gone before us…are we? Some of the greatest people who have ever lived were only known after they died. I give you some examples to ponder God’s searching question…
”What if no one knows YOUR name?”
° Although the publication of his one book brought this American author, poet and philosopher modest success, his political writings had little impact during his lifetime. He earned his living by WORKING IN A PENCIL FACTORY, lecturing occasionally and by publishing essays in newspapers and journals.
He never made much money, which probably suited him fine. But nearly three decades after his death, Henry Stephens Salt wrote a biography of this man, earning him great posthumous fame.
His political writings went on to influence leaders like Mohandas Gandhi, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, and Leo Tolstoy, as well as artists and authors including Edward Abbey, Willa Cather, Marcel Proust, William Butler Yeats, Sinclair Lewis, Ernest Hemingway, Upton Sinclair, E.B. White, Lewis Mumford, Frank Lloyd Wright, Alexander Posey and Gustav Stickley…
not to mention all of us who love to take a meandering meditative walk in the woods. The man’s name; Henry David Thoreau, and like many who reason deep into the night with only themselves to critique their work, his influence spoke loudly to future generations, proving it appears, that the gifts that God gives cannot be silenced.
° It would be misleading to say that the German-born composer died before he was famous since he was acclaimed for his talent as an organist. But he was not known as a composer, yet that is what he is most famous for now. Few of his works were published during his lifetime.
It wasn’t until 1829 when German composer Felix Mendelssohn reintroduced this composers “Passion According to St. Matthew” that he began to receive posthumous praise for the work of his musical compositions. Now he is generally regarded as one of the major composers of the Baroque period, if not one of the greatest composers of all time.
His name was Johann Sebastian Bach. It was left for others to discover his true genius, and he was never recognized for the very area he loved the most…composing music for God during his lifetime. But One sitting upon the Throne in Glory knew his name, and there is no doubt that a portion of the music of heaven will have been written by him when we arrive there after our deaths.
° Although the
American-born writer from New York City had a flirtation with early
success, his writing career took a nosedive after the publication of his
second book. He continued writing, but after the age of 35, critical
and financial success from writing remained elusive. By 1876, all of his
books were out of print. All told, he earned a mere $10,000 from
He eventually took a job as a CUSTOMS INSPECTOR on the New York docks, which finally brought him a secure income. He held the position for 19 years.
In the 1920s, a biography written by Raymond Weaver about him brought renewed attention to the writer and sparked the revival by which the man finally got his due. His opus, “Moby-Dick,” is now hailed as one of the world’s literary masterpieces.
His name; Herman Melville. A writer of adventure whose greatest work awaited his death before it would make him famous.
° The Austrian-born lover of God, discovered the basic principles of heredity through experiments in his monastery garden, but both his Law of Segregation (dominant and recessive traits are passed on randomly from parents to offspring) and the Law of Independent Assortment (traits are passed on independently of other traits) were little promoted and mostly misunderstood by the contemporary scientific community.
In 1868, he became a school abbot and between his schoolwork and failing eyesight, he pretty much abandoned science. Upon his death, his work was largely unknown.
Yet during the ensuing years, other scientists began to refer to his early work; his system eventually proved to be one of the foundational principles of biology, and many consider him to be the father of modern genetics.
His name; Gregor Johann Mendel. Every student of science now reveres his name, but during his time on earth, he was ignored…even laughed at by the scientific community, but God had other plans.
° She is one of America’s national treasures, the poet had a mere 10 poems published while alive, and she may have been unaware of their publication. While she was extremely prolific as a poet and regularly shared her work with friends and family, she was not publicly recognized during her lifetime.
By the middle of her life, she lived in almost total physical isolation from the outside world, but no one is sure why she chose such a reclusive life. Upon her death, her sister Lavina discovered 40 hand-bound volumes of nearly 1,800 of her poems; although Lavinia had promised to burn all of her correspondence, fortunately for poetry lovers everywhere, no such instructions were given for her poems.
Her name was Emily Dickenson. You know her, but her contemporaries did not. The first volume of her work was published posthumously in 1890 and the last in 1955; she remains one of the most highly regarded of American poets.
° Born in New York City and raised in France, she moved to Chicago in 1956 where she spent most of her life as a nanny. But when not tending to her charges, the unassuming caretaker took to the streets, cataloging the people and sites with her handy Rolleiflex camera.
Eventually, she became somewhat destitute but was ultimately taken care of by three of the children she had cared for earlier in her life. No one who knew her was aware of her secret life as a street photographer, a documentary-type genre of photography that relies on candid shots of strangers in public. Taking snapshots well into the late 1990s, She would leave behind more than 100,000 negatives, in addition to other forms of media.
In 2007, a young man working on a historical book of Chicago bought a mystery box of 30,000 her prints and negatives from a thrift auction house that had acquired the media from a storage facility, where she had been delinquent with her fees. Following her death, the man figured out who she was through an obituary, and he began sharing her work. Since then, her photographs have been exhibited all over the world, have appeared in print in numerous countries, and there is now a book and movie about her and her work. Her name: Vivian Maier. The fact that you have to search for who she is in a search engine, tells you that greatness is not always rewarded with fame.
° He became embroiled in a dispute with his creditor, and the man sued and won control of his workshop and half the books printed. Thus, he was bankrupted and lived out the rest of his years in obscurity. He died poor in 1468 and was buried in a church cemetery which was later destroyed and the grave lost.
His name on earth, Johann Gutenberg…inventor of the printing press. Unknown to many in his generation but applauded by myriads of angels and His Lord upon his entrance to glory. The world had been turned upside down by this servant who took the Scriptures; denied to the common man by a cruel religious system and placed them within reach for others to hold in their own hands.
His printing press had turned on the light and ushered in the Renaissance, the “Re-birth” of Christian thought in the world. But today, we cannot even find where he is buried.
° Finally, there was 1920’s bluesman Blind Willie Johnson. His desire was to become a famous musician, even though his stepmother had blinded him when he was seven years old by throwing lye in his eyes after his father had beaten her for being with another man. He died penniless of pneumonia after sleeping bundled in wet newspapers in the ruins of his house that had burned down.
He died never knowing NASA in 1978 decided to include on the Golden Record carrying “sounds of the Planet Earth” on Voyager, Johnson’s song, “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground” along with an array of music including Gregorian chants and Chuck Berry. He was no one of note during his pain filled life, but his music left our solar system just 10 years ago. Such is the faithfulness of a God of Mercy and Justice.
After my literal “awakening” early this morning, what I realize now is that God is not only the giver of ideas, inventions, music, art, books, and breakthroughs, but also that He will not share His glory with another. He is the light giver, the one who saves the world. Our part in these endeavors is given by God as those privileged to share in His WORK, but NOT in His glory. I recognize that I write for an audience of One. While we hope for some small recognition while we live on this earth; regardless of the areas of our endeavors, it is God who will decide if our names will be known anywhere but in eternity.
If you write, sing, dance, paint, create or labor with intensity for seemingly no public acclaim, please know that who you are and what you do is NOT insignificant to God. Also, remember that true prophets are never recognized in their times.
He is the one who raises up the lowly, and to those obscured by injustice, He will sweep it away and show your work proudly to an eternity of the saints. If you labor in prayer in secret thereby bringing about a spiritual revolution, if you preach in a small church, with a tiny congregation that we will never read about, or if you quietly labor as a missionary to peoples great or small or unknown… YOUR reward is great in the Kingdom of God.
It does not matter how many books you sell, how many songs become hit records, how many paintings seem to be stuffed into your closet gathering dust. There is a “God Who Sees” Who is well able to make our meager offerings into masterpieces to feed the imaginations of the masses. He will make your work worthwhile…if you are brave enough not to care too much, whether or not you are famous during your lifetime.