The mountain peaks burst through the clouds like massive granite daggers punching holes in the deep blue sky. A great valley stretches as far as the eye can see. In the summer a sparkling blue lake would dominate the landscape, but now all is covered in snow. The great evergreens that manage to survive up here are stooped low by the weight of the snow, barely discernible in the whitewashed landscape. The sun burns brightly, impossibly high in the sky.
At the head of the valley is a simple log cabin, the only evidence of humanity in this pristinely preserved plot of God’s country. Smoke curls from the chimney, signaling the invitation and call: “Here is warmth, rest, peace, and joy. Here is shelter from the cold. Here is a drink to warm your body and a meal to renew your strength.”
Maybe this sounds like hell to you, but for me it’s idyllic. When I think about the lives of America’s most influential pastors, this is the image that comes to my mind. It’s not that I think they actually live in cabins like this, but the image is an impression, a metaphor, for their life as I imagine it. Put simply, they are living the life I want to live. They are successful in ministry . They are writing books. They are speaking at conferences. They are in-demand, famous, and well-respected. It’s hard not to want what they have; it’s even harder not to idealize (or idolize) them.
But here’s the thing. As I enter that idyllic cabin in the mountains, as I go through the great wooden door and into the warmth and richness of the interior, as I gaze at the masculine trinkets decorating the walls and warm myself by the roaring fire, I realize something: Nobody lives here. It’s not just that nobody’s home, it’s that this house is vacant. It’s unoccupied. The idyllic life I imagine these pastors have doesn’t exist. It’s not where they live. The cabin is empty.
What it looks like from the outside is not what it is on the inside. Fame and celebrity are fundamentally false, and the picture they paint (or tempt you to paint in your heart) is a lie. Don’t give in to their temptation, and don’t be deceived. That cabin may look perfect from the outside, but inside, it’s uninhabitable.