Short Story Saturday

He loved to make paper airplanes and fly them. That was Joey’s passion as a child. He spent so much time figuring out the perfect design. How could he make a plane that would not crash too early? How might it stay level for as much time as possible? As Joey grew, he became discontent with the paper airplane and longed to make something that would last. The teenager’s family and friends, but mainly his family, praised him as he finished his first wooden model.

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The recognition was nice. Joey gladly received the praise for his early accomplishment and quickly built another model. This time, though, the recognition wasn’t there. That’s okay, though, because he was doing what he loved; what he was passionate about. Still, Joey yearned to move on to bigger and better things.

Joey took a woodworking class and, at age 16, built his first bookcase. All of his friends and family praised him. Again, the recognition was nice. Joey loved being noticed and noticed that it was the ones he loved who noticed and who praised him for his accomplishments. Joey built two more bookcases, but the praise was absent. Was their love contingent upon his accomplishments?

Two more years passed and Joey continued to build, virtually unnoticed by the world around him. He started a career as a carpenter because it is what he loved to do, but he wanted to build something bigger and better than he ever had before. This would be his life’s work and it would be breathtaking. Joey began drawing up the plans and began his project in his twenties.

The frame went up quickly: four walls on a concrete slab. “Building my own house!” He updated the world as he shared a picture. Soon a crowd began to gather, even people he did not know, and praise him for his progress. He hired someone else to come and wire the house and install the plumbing. Then in went the insulation, on went the sheetrock, and the world praised him again because they saw the progress.

Soon it was time for Joey to roof his house, so he did and the world applauded. Brick by brick stacked with mortar and the recognition from the people gathered at that place watching him drove him to do well and to continue: stacking each brick more precisely than the brick before. At some point, he no longer did it because he loved it, but because he loved the praise of the people gathered there watching.

The bricks were stacked and the door hung on its hinges and people praised Joey for not only the uniqueness of his house, but for the fact that he had accomplished so much with his life. Now, it was time to work on the inside. Joey walked into his house excited about the final stretch. First, he installed some molding around the door frames and painted the walls. There were some who looked in the windows and cheered, but many people left. It hurt, but there were still some who praised him. The work was still worth it. He installed carpet, moved in furniture and even decorated the bathrooms. His house was finished and he was thirty-two. No one applauded.

Joey spent a couple years bragging about his accomplishments, remembering a time when he received praise for what he did. Oh how he ached to turn back time, to a decade when people loved him and he did what he loved. At this point, he was lonely. Joey would get an idea and would complete another project, but no one noticed. He would either sell it or use it in his house, and after a time, became bitter toward the world and especially those young people who were being praised for their accomplishments. Joey was thirty-six and the world had forgotten him, so he decided to forget the world!

He sold his house and bought a new one. Some people noticed, and were surprised. “Didn’t he build that house himself?” the would ask, “I would never want to give that up.” Those who noticed what he did began to criticize him instead of praise him and at thirty-seven, Joey ended the criticism and the possibility of praise with one pull of the trigger.

He spent his life seeking the approval of others because he was conditioned to interpret praise as the only valid form of love and he began seeking the approval of people rather than simply doing what he loved without any expectation. Wouldn’t life be simpler and happier if we were content to follow our God-given passions instead of constantly seeking praise from the people around us?

Joey woke up in the house that he had built.

Nevertheless, many did believe in Him even among the rulers, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, so they would not be banned from the synagogue. For they loved praise from men more than praise from God. (John 12:42-43 HCSB)

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