On November 23rd 2014 Fredrik Wikingsson walked into the Philadelphia Academy of music and took a seat in the second row. As the lights in the theater dimmed his calves pulsed up and down pushing his heels off of the carpet adding a bounce to his knees. He was still wondering if he was part of a twisted joke as a man walked out onto the stage in front of him, gave some directions to the lighting technician, and then began playing a song called, “Heartbeat” originally recorded by Buddy Holly. Fredrik’s grin and enthusiasm would go unchecked during the two songs he bathed in as the only audience member in the company of Bob Dylan and his band. He would then be reduced to tears as the wailing of Bob’s impromptu harmonica solo carried him through the third tune. Dylan closed their time together with an unidentified blues song and an invitation for Fredrik to, “swing by anytime.” He had a public concert that evening but Fredrik elected not to go. How could anything ever live up to the personal experience he’d just had? He chose instead to a pop into a karaoke bar and sing Dylan’s songs to his own audience. Check out Fredrik’s experience in his own words here.
How cool would that be? Maybe for you it wouldn’t be Dylan. It would be Snow Patrol, The Weekend, or, ahem, Bieber. Go ahead and fill in your own blank. I’m not judging you. To have someone perform, with all their passion, just for you would be beyond precious. Would you even have words? It happens more and more. Just a few weeks ago Tim McGraw popped in unannounced to sing for a couple’s first dance at their wedding. If they weren’t fans before, they are now.
Do you know who else loves private shows? God. Jesus tells in in Matthew 6 that our generosity, prayer, and fasting, when done in ways that only God sees, is pleasing to him and will be rewarded. He says that, “Our Father who is unseen sees what is done in secret and will reward you.” ~ Matthew 6:4,6,&18
After the private show Fredrik was ruined as far as public Dylan concerts went. He chose to go and celebrate instead of sitting through one. God feels the same way. He’s not pleased with our public displays of affection and group applause. If that’s what we want, the high fives we get will come from the people that watch us work, not from him. God is not satisfied with our performance unless he’s the only one in the audience.
I have a confession. Sometimes when I say something funny I say it because I want the people who are eavesdropping to laugh. I want them to be impressed. When I do that what I’m really doing is moving the spotlight away from the person I’m supposed to be paying attention to and onto the unknown crowd. Maybe you’ve had that happen to you. You’ve had someone throwing wild verbal pitches. They were words that were supposed to be thrown in your direction but landed elsewhere. Maybe they’ve spoken to you while looking somewhere else. Don’t you want to just grab their face and say, “I’m right here.”? When that happens we’ve devalued someone that is supposed to be important.
It doesn’t just happen with words does it? It happens when we show up to our child’s or our friend’s game but spend the whole time checking our phone or talking to people in the stands instead of watching him or her on the field. It’s when we sit down to dinner in front of a tv instead of a family. It happens when we give a guy in need lunch money and give out all the details of our good deed as we eat our own. It’s like going to a concert and focusing on the screen instead of the stage. We’re there but we’re participating with the wrong audience.
God tells us in Matthew 6 that we can only perform effectively for one audience at a time and the only audience that matters is the audience of one.