I live with the hope of being rewarded.
I get embarrassed by public acknowledgement, yet enduring the awkwardness opens my ears to a whisper, if but for just a moment. You’re okay. You’re really okay.
And then the whisper fades. Every time.
I crave admiration — even from those invisible culture-makers who convince me I’ll never be good enough. Even from those who make me feel worse. They speak louder than whispers.
It’s scary to wake up and realize you’re wrestling with the same thoughts you had as a teenager. Twenty-five years later.
The more insecure I feel, the harder I try. It’s painful to watch someone try too hard. It’s even more awkward when you’re watching yourself do it.
“When you pray, do not be as hypocrites who love to pray loudly at synagogue or on street corners—their concern is to be seen by men. They have already earned their reward.“ (Matthew 6:5)
And I pity them, those who need to be seen and admired. For their reward has already been received, and they’re still hungry. I’ve known it all too well. I’ve received praise, only to find myself more insecure and empty than before.
“When you pray, go into a private room, close the door, and pray unseen to your Father who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.” (v6)
What is this reward that comes in secret? This counter-cultural reward?
I empty myself of everything but hope. I cast off the world’s measuring stick. I come to the quiet — to the silence — before I can be filled. I stop trying.
I’m known. And amazingly, I’m cherished. Acknowledgement and admiration seem so empty after you know what it’s like to be cherished.
The hope of Your reward, Lord, silences me. No words here, just a quiet longing to know intimacy that transcends mortal comprehension. You overwhelm me. Your Story boasts complexity. Your reward, Your very Presence given to me in secret is more satiating than anything I’ve tasted.
Your grace finds me moment after moment. Your mercy is new each morning.
Forgive me for heaping up empty phrases. Give me the grace to stop talking and the courage to hear. Give me discernment to ignore the empty whispers and to listen instead to Your Voice.
My reward in private is intimacy. My reward is believing I’m pursued. My reward is the hope I’ll always see You running after me.
Help me get back to this place again.