Letters To Tom — Spectacular

Dear Tom:

The devil tempts Jesus asking him to throw himself over a cliff thus requiring the Angels to rescue Jesus. Nouwen calls this the temptation to be spectacular. What does he mean by spectacular? Well, do we measure an action’s value by visibility and notoriety? Do we ask, “did he break a record, did it outsell its competition, was it a box office hit,” as a sign of an event’s significance. Do we hardly conceive that something that is unknown, unspectacular, and hidden has any value. These questions indicate how Nouwen defines the temptation.

Our own hunger for the spectacular has much to do about our search for selfhood. We find ourselves asking, “Who am I if nobody notices, says thank you, or recognizes our work. This need for popularity and praise is never satisfied. The more praise we receive, the more we desire.

Jesus responds to the devil’s temptation, “You must not put the Lord your God to the test.” Well perhaps when we seek the spectacular glitter we are putting God to a test. Are we saying that we don’t believe God loves us and considers us worthwhile, and thus we call on God to sooth us by heaping on human praise?

Instead, we should follow your Sufi wisdom and return to the center, to the heart. There we will find a gentle voice that speaks to us in a way no human voice or praise can. We hear God’s unlimited acceptance of us as beloved children. This acceptance is so full and all-embracing there is no need to be seen, praised or admired. It also frees us to God’s service no matter how unspectacular it might be.

Your Friend,


About the author

Webb Hubbell is the former Associate Attorney General of The United States. His novels, When Men Betray, Ginger Snaps, A Game of Inches, The Eighteenth Green, and The East End are published by Beaufort Books and are available online or at your local bookstore. When Men Betray won one of the IndieFab awards for best novel in 2014. Ginger Snaps and The Eighteenth Green won the IPPY Awards Gold Medal for best suspense/thriller. His latest, “Light of Day” will be on the bookstands soon.

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