When an interviewer has a new rising star in the studio, they will often ask, “Who are your influences?”
I often ask this question of people who are not on the rising platform that is fame, at least not yet. I ask people who are potentially both on the way up or down, people who are ordinary, people who are interesting, people who are growing, and people who are passionate about issues that are life-changing. It’s a good way to get to know people.
Let me take a moment to answer my own question. First some honesty.
On Why-Do-The-Wicked-Prosper and Why-Do-Bad-Things-Happen-To-Good-People questioning days, my influencers are like the grieving sisters, Mary and Martha: “Lord, if you had been here this horrible thing would not have happened!”
On less attentive days, I am influenced negatively by doom and gloomers who cheer the descent of the world as it races toward the handbasket destined for hell thinking it signifies the time of rescue of the elect off this planet.
On I-Want-To-Look-Good days, I am influenced by the media mavens who equate compassionate love with short-sighted indulgence.
On days when I follow You-Think-That’s-Bad soap boxers on social media, I am influenced by those whose goal is to see them punished and us rewarded.
On better days, I am influenced positively by those who can wait to see the bigger picture.
On better days, I am influenced by those who choose good over evil, even when it seems to be to their detriment. I am influenced by the athlete who sacrifices a sure win to come to the aid of another athlete in distress, for example.
I am influenced by people who have spoken or written words of profound wisdom that bring greater understanding of the character of God, even if their own reputations, were later destroyed by failure to rely on God and leave a harmful God-avoiding coping mechanism behind.
I am influenced by artists and scientists who pursue excellence in both knowledge and wisdom and communicate insights with honesty and transparency.
I am influenced by children and guileless folks on the autism spectrum who have the clarity to shout, “Hey! The emperor has no clothes,” when I have accepted traditions that say it is wrong to think that out loud.
I am influenced by the parent who puts more effort into raising an inconvenient child than gaining accolades or material goods for themselves.
I am influenced by the introvert who leaves the comfort of their favourite chair to venture onto far-away stages in obedience to a calling on their life.
I am influenced by the experienced extrovert who listens first, second, and third before responding with better questions.
I am influenced by those who demonstrate self-control while giving others the freedom to control themselves.
I am influenced by those who talk about other people behind their backs in kind, appreciative ways.
I am influenced by the strong but gentle, the encouragers, the visionaries, the builders, the apologizers, the forgivers, the comforters, the humble, the confidant, the serene.
I am influenced by people who provoke me, annoy me, and exasperate me because they genuinely love me.
I am influenced by people who see ugliness, but rest their eyes on beauty.
I’m surrounded by a lot of influencers, some great, some not so great. I could name these people, but you probably wouldn’t recognize most of them. The one I will name, hoping you know him, is Jesus the Christ.
The root of the word influence means “to flow into.” More than anyone else I want Jesus to flow into and through me. I can only hope that someday it will show in my work.