That NEW Adage

A pressure-relief valve about God, and just about everything else.


I want to be great.

I struggle with this. I know that God says that He will give His glory to no man. I ask myself constantly if the reason I have not yet achieved my goals is that I want to be glorified in some way. Maybe God knows (I want to say, “Maybe God THINKS,” but I know He doesn’t wonder) that I would not be as humble as I need to be if He allows me to do the same things as those as whom I know I am at least as good. (prepositions! whew!)

Or maybe I simply have not worked hard enough.

I play music and I write words. I often think, when I see humorists and columnists and hear certain saxophone players, “I KNOW I can do this! I’m at LEAST that good! Why can’t I get a break?” I know I’m kind of good, but I want to be great. And not obscure. And I begin again to wonder if what is blocking me is simply my thought process.

Maybe my thinking has to change… Maybe I have to think more about what greatness will mean for God than what it will do for me.

From day one I have been Charlie Brown. I was the insignificant kid, the ridiculed kid, the unremembered kid. I was the one who the girls looked at from the edges of their eyes. I was the one who either ate alone at lunch or went and found others with whom to eat.

I was never at the center of the action, always at the outer ring. Never the life of the party.

When I started to play music, it wasn’t to get girls or to be cool. I just wanted to learn how to play an instrument — something no one in my neighborhood did. All through school, the fact that I could hear a tune and reproduce it and improvise a little bit did nothing to initiate me into that cool musical circle.

When I grew up and began doing it for a living, my mother, who worked at my high school, would ask me to come back and play for assemblies. My own band director (with whom I rode to school EVERY DAY for three years!!!) was shocked when he heard me, remarking to my mother, “I had no idea Derrick could play like that! When did this happen?”

He had not bothered to notice or nurture my talent. He never pushed me. While the cool kids were taking theory classes and playing in the jazz band, I was at home picking out Grover Washington and Spyro Gyra solos. Teaching myself.

When I was in the eighth grade and on the verge of academic mediocrity as a student in the first Optional School class in Memphis, my English teacher brought a knarry tree stump into the classroom and asked us to write a story based on what we saw. I, thinking myself a failure at English, got the highest grade in the class. In me was born the love for words I now have. I changed at that moment. And a lot of the arrogant kids in the class looked at me differently — although being good at English doesn’t make you cool.

Writing didn’t become cool for me until I began getting paid to write love letters for guys — something I was scared to do for myself for a long time.

This very blog is all about me trying to be great. It is more than a geek with a computer corrupting journalism. It is me trying to not just rant, but to make literature. I want to leave my children with something that shows them that their father did not just consume resources, but that he THOUGHT. I want to not get to God’s throne and have Him disappointed because I left unused some gift He gave to me.

I want to MATTER — to be necessary. I want to be great in His eyes AND send my kids to college. Can’t you do both? There is the rub… That which makes ascent uncertain…

Being so consistently rejected bred in me this thing, this need, to prove them all wrong. To prove to — whomever — that I was worthy of note. Not of exaltation, but just valuable enough to be heard, to be listened to. It is the same drive, I think, that led Michael Jordan to prove wrong the coach who cut him when he was a kid. The same drive that made my father put cement and a pole into buckets to make his own barbells back in the fifties when kids laughed at him and called him scrawny.

I hate being treated as “less-than.” HATE it! I am the first one to esteem my neighbor as greater than myself, as long as my neighbor doesn’t presume to assume that position! I’ll get in the back seat as long as you don’t insist that I belong there. It is for this reason that arrogance is one of the things I hate most in the world.

 I want to show all those who belittled me and dismissed my contributions that they are what is wrong with the world. (But it doesn’t consume me as much as it may sound)

Maybe in a twisted way, though, that is revenge… I don’t know. I mean, I don’t have a desire to hurt anyone, or to repay in like fashion, so maybe it’s not vengeance. But maybe my thinking is wrong. Maybe I need to focus more on how GOD would be proved worthy of note if these things happened for me the way I want them to… I know I am not arrogant — I am PROUD of how humble I am! I make way too many mistakes to have an exaggerated idea of myself.

God, however, sees things in a different way than do I. Maybe my thinking is out of synch with His. Maybe if I can figure out how greatness and fame intersect, that last door will open.

Or maybe it is just not time yet.

I know He has not closed the door though, because I have continually been able to support myself, and because step by agonizing step, I have done a little bit better. I have worked with some pretty big acts and have played as though I belonged there.

We all live and eat by having people give us money to do something we are good at doing. Our gifts make our way for us. That is all I want. No Bentley, no floor length mink, no gaudy jewels. No breathless fans or VIP status.

Just ample recompense for art rendered. Commensurate compensation.

Lord, I don’t want Your spot or your shine. And if I don’t speak up enough, it is of shyness, not of usurpation. Create in me that right way of thinking, and even closer fellowship with You.

I’m not so haughty, reader, as to think that my life is so compelling that you just HAVE to know about it. I just hope the words are interesting enough to keep you reading them.


November 26, 2008 - Posted by | Arrogance, Artistry, Christian Life, Christianity, Fame, Food for Thought, Glory, God, Greatness, Humility, Life, Music, Saxophone, Words, Work, Writing


  1. still reading bro!

    Comment by ricktrotter | November 26, 2008 | Reply

  2. I’m glad I came by, today. This post REALLY ministered to me. As a young girl, I was smarter than most of my classmates (no arrogance, just truth), but I wasn’t pretty. I was taller than all the other girls (and most of the boys), and I wore braces in high school. I wasn’t cute. Boys can very cruel, but girls — they know exactly what buttons to push. They know how you feel, when the words slice through you.

    People who knew me then, are often shocked when they see me now — not because I’m now a beauty queen, but because I’m no longer awkward, and I know how to use a makeup brush and wear clothes. I clean up really good! I may not be a “swan”, but perhaps I’m much less of an “ugly duckling”.

    I have been blessed with wit, and the gift of gab. I also have an acidic tongue, developed over time, as a very effective defense mechanism. Thank God I’m saved, and I can choose to not annihilate folks with my words (the way of the Spirit), rather than give in to my moments of “brokeness”, and rip folks to shreds (the way of the flesh). I’m a work in progress. But on the flip side, God has given me the ability to encourage with my words. He says, “turn the acid into…ointment”. There’s always the flip side. The “God” side. More of Him, less of me.

    I can sing (I toured with Fred Hammond, as part of “Radical for Christ”), but I wish someone had pushed me to really develop my voice. I didn’t have the confidence way back when. Music is my solacement. I can sing to myself, and I can sing to The Lord. Music is one of the most wonderful gifts (and weapons of warfare) God gave us.

    So, in my rambling (you know me!), I guess I just wanted to say that I know what it’s like to wanna be “Great” and do great things. I know what it’s like to feel like you’re not so…great. I know what it’s like to wanna look at the condescending ones, and say, “How you like me NOW???” I confess that it felt good for me to tell a still-gorgeous, former high school classmate (who humiliated me in front of “the group”, just…because) that I wasn’t interested in a dinner date, nor a phone number exchange. LOL! Hey, I’m confessin’ my faults.

    That’s why I LOVE God so much! My favorite name for him is “El Roi”. As small and unimportant as I sometimes feel, I know that The Greatest One thinks I’m…great!

    Thank you, Derrick!

    Comment by anappygirl | November 26, 2008 | Reply

  3. I can soooo relate to this post. *girl who got picked on a lot as kid, speaking!!!* And because of that, I always felt negative about myself. It’s getting better. But it’s great to know that God looks at me in a TOTALLY different light.

    What a great read!

    Comment by Erin | November 26, 2008 | Reply

  4. Derrick!!! I have just read something that has articulated a lot of things that I feel and am dealing with!! I was that same child that wasn’t the most popular, but so desperately wanted to be known or at least considered. It’s crazy, but I am 31 years old and still struggle with this stuff! Is my value and self-worth found in it? No, I got over that a long time ago. But there still is that longing…

    Thanks for sharing this.

    Comment by heatherltrotter | November 27, 2008 | Reply

  5. Let me tell you haw great you are D. Your identity is in Christ, created by Him and for Him! How great is that! On this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for friends who are humble, vulnerable and gifted enough to express so eloquently what I and, I am sure, so many others struggle with on a regular basis. I am with you and I feel you, bro. I suppose that whatever our futures hold, I hope and pray that when my time on this terrestrial rock is done, my wife and kids think that I WAS great!

    Comment by Rob | November 27, 2008 | Reply

  6. Thanks, friends, for EMpathizing.

    I often have to remind myself that the biggest Big Shot in the whole universe knows my name and ALWAYS takes my calls!

    I keep my eternal POV, but waking up and being here every day with life blowing in my face makes me want to ACHIEVE in a big way in this season.

    I just have to juxtapose my desire with God’s will.

    Tracie, was that you I saw on YouTube? 🙂 You a Starrah!

    Comment by maxdaddy | November 28, 2008 | Reply

  7. Nope, I’m not on YouTube — WHO do you think is me? Send me the link! I gotta SEE this! LOL!

    Comment by anappygirl | November 28, 2008 | Reply

  8. Derrick – one of the things I love most about your writing is the perspective you give me. It’s one thing to logically follow the words on the screen and know what’s going on; it’s another to be drawn in and find oneself feeling different at the end then at the beginning.

    There is so much to ponder with a post like this; the one that hit me most is the one about your band director. I wonder how many “Derricks” I pass up each day or week as I strive to keep up with my busy-ness and schedule. When I was a kid, I desperately wanted someone (older) to take an interest and mentor / disciple me, but it never happened. Now that I have the opportunities and resources to do it, am I doing it? That’s a tough question but one I really need to think about.

    Good thoughts my friend.

    Comment by Bones | November 29, 2008 | Reply

  9. Thanks, Marc! I am honored. For real.
    Say, “hey” to the wife and kids. Wish you could be at the Kirk concert coming up.

    Your last point is interesting… I had my father — a jock who then didn’t really appreciate my leanings (HE DOES NOW) — but no older people to help me at all. I need to do better, too.

    Comment by maxdaddy | November 30, 2008 | Reply

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