one thing that will make your soul explode

They announced the winner of American Idol last night and when they did, the winner did not jump up and down or fall down on his knees. He did not make number one signs with his hands or scream into the camera. He was almost nearly silent. Still. They gave him a guitar and asked him to sing. And he did, but he didn’t make it far.

Because when the sparks started shooting out of the screen behind him and the confetti started to drop around him, it seemed nearly too much to take.

A sentence went through my head, one Jon Acuff said a few weeks ago during a backstage interview at Catalyst (I watched online). He quoted someone awesome whose name I can’t remember, but the quote has been rolling around in my head for weeks now.

“The human soul was not made for fame.”

You could see it, as he stood there overwhelmed with his own success and attention, like his soul was turning inside out and he didn’t know how to handle it. When he started to cry, all he could do was put his head down and walk straight into the arms of his family. He disappeared in them, like he was hiding in the comfort of his own smallness.

The crowd and the cameras were cramming importance into him by the truckload, but it seemed he didn’t want to receive it, couldn’t receive it.  How wise.

Only a fool would open up his arms, tip his head back to the heavens and take it all in, a place meant for God alone. And whether you watch the show or not, it is a fascinating study of how we mill about here on earth, putting our stars on certain people, lifting them up to places they never asked to be lifted up to.

They share their art and we want to hear it, but soon, if they get too big or too much attention, they become the object of our narrowed eyes and pointy fingers. If we can’t win, then neither can they. 

We do it with our athletes and our movie stars and our professional Christians, too. We know better than to worship them, but we put them up slightly higher than ordinary. We forget (or maybe we never really understood) that He holds all things together, all things that were created for him and through him. He is the firstborn over all creation. All. Creation.

Our souls were not made for fame. Our souls were made for the Famous One. O God, save us from ourselves.

Edited to add: I’m 99% sure Al Andrews is the one who said The human soul isn’t made for fame.


  1. says

    Sigh. Beautiful.

    Simply Beautiful!

    I didn’t watch it, and don’t follow American Idol really… but I’m glad I seen this.

    His reaction was humble… and I love it!

    Thank you for this reminder!

  2. Anna says

    So good and so true. We look everywhere for what we can only find in one place. No wonder we’re told to keep pig eyes fixed on Jesus and above.

  3. Anna says

    Who knows why that came out as ‘pig’ eyes not ‘our’ eyes. All I can say is it wasn’t intended!

  4. Lisa says

    What a beautiful post! I just recently found your blog this week. I feel so grounded when I read you posts…they all really hit home for me. Thank you for sharing!

  5. says

    I don’t watch Idol, but that…that just made me burst into tears at my kitchen table. Something so deep and true about that. Yes. Thank you for this beautiful post.

  6. says

    Oh my. I do not watch American Idol and had not seen that video. What a beautiful & humble reaction.

    And your words? What a marvelous reflection about what we are made for and what we are not. Just yesterday I read something from Reggie Joiner on Orange Parents about not striving for fame, but instead, striving for a legacy.

    And how do we do this as bloggers? As we strive to share our words and create a platform? How do we not cross over into a strive for fame? How do we keep the wonderful perspective you laid out here?

    The human soul was not made for fame. Amen. Amen.

    • Lauren L. says

      “How do we not cross over into a strive for fame?” This is the question I’m struggling with right now, Stephanie. About 48 hours ago, I couldn’t sleep because I was wrestling with whether to start up a WordPress account. I’m not sure how I’ll react to the promotional aspect. Can I do it to the glory of God? (Clearly, it can be done. Will I?) I think at least half of my answer lies in being confident that I’m called to do something — that it wasn’t just my idea in the first place. That’s some serious accountability.

      Still thinking, still praying, still wrestling.

  7. says

    Emily, I have always watched American Idol and that moment last night when Phillip realized he won is the reason I watch. And yet. What is he winning for? I wish I could just paste my journal entry in here because it’s a question I mulled over this morning. The thing is Phillip is amazing and he clearly has a God-given talent. And it is so beautiful to one, find talent like that and two, to watch that moment he realizes that it’s not all just in his head that he is good. It’s so beautiful. But what is he destined for in this American society of lifting people to fame? Are we really lifting him up by making him famous? But still. He has such a talent that should be shared. Millions of people SHOULD hear him sing. I don’t know how to reconcile those two ideas.

    • says

      Amy, I enjoyed watching both his talent and his humble response that seemed connected with a proverb which I ran across just this morning: “the soul would have no rainbow if the eye had no tears.” I pray that his humble tears and self image will continually be grounded in God’s promises.

      • Nella says

        I have never seen this verse, but when I read your post, this verse it took my breath away!…. It touched me deeply…. I am an emotional person and for years, I would get so upset with myself and wish I didn’t cry so easily, but I realize that God make me this way and that tears cleans the soul… now I know that something beautiful as beautiful as a rainbow is left behind after the tears… Thank you for ministering to me…

  8. says

    I watched this last night and was trying to express what I saw…you did it beautifully…”The human soul was not made for fame.” Love it.

  9. says

    Oh, I’m bawling! I didn’t watch AI this year. That was beautiful. No we weren’t made for fame. “Our souls were made for the Famous One.” Love that.

  10. says

    I didn’t watch one minute of American Idol (I know), but these few minutes were lovely. Your words added to them something very sweet. Thanks Emily.

    • Billy Hodges says

      With great pride; I can say that is the way most South Georgia familys are. We show our hearts and protect our loved ones and friends. I am so very proud to call Leesburg, Ga my home!

  11. says

    Expressed perfectly! We are not made for our own accolades, but to use them to thank, serve, and point to our loving and almighty Creator.
    And, this was such a touching moment last night . . .

  12. says

    I haven’t watched American Idol in years. But most “winners” are usually overwhelmed. I would imagine it is an exciting and humbling experience all tied into one. No we are not meant for fame. I am grateful for the ordinary.

  13. says

    Humbling, and so true…we are not made for fame, adoration or worship. And every day you can see the results of what happens when we make ordinary people feel like they deserve it. Very beautiful post here…..Lori

  14. says

    You just can’t know how powerful his reaction was to me personally and then yes in your re-telling more. And the fame can and is so odd. And the critics do come out of the woodwork and criticize the good. And the humility he, Phil, showed the world is numbingly beautiful. I liked him from so early on and now I think I see more of the why. Humility in front of millions. No small thing.

  15. says

    I noticed that last night, too. And I was overwhelmed by his smallness and his need for closeness from the intimacy of his family. It was so profound. And what you said, it’s even more so. We aren’t made for that kind of fame. And that dude, he sure knows it. He listened to his spirit and was true to himself. Really beautiful.

  16. says

    I thought the same thing last night (well, not so eloquently). Here he is winning American Idol (which as my husband said could be the best OR worst thing to ever happen to him!) and what does he do? Where does he really want to be? Running straight into the arms of his family.

    Yes, God is the only one who deserves the fame!

    Beautiful post!

  17. says

    Emily, I don’t watch the show, but I watched the clip and all I could think was that he looked like a little boy. Someone’s son. This was a beautiful and insightful post. Thank you!

  18. says

    I agree with the quote, but I also feel that because we DO admire certain people for certain qualities, that something in our soul is responding to the eternal in their soul. I think the “idol” kind of fame is harmful, but giving props to someone who is obviously so talented, is good for them and for us. To see the divine in another.

  19. says

    Emily, this is a sacred echo for me this week. I wrote about meeting Katie Couric in London last week and was struck by the verses of scripture that say when we ask for fame we have no idea what we are asking for. You said this beautifully.

  20. says

    Our souls were not made for fame. Our souls were made for the Famous One.

    Love it.

    Learning it is good and it is okay and it is wonderful to be small. To simply be His.

    (and on a side note, have totally been humming Phillip’s finale song all day. so good.)

  21. says

    Loved that moment on American Idol last night. I am a fan of the show, it makes me think. Love your perspective and whole heartedly agree!

  22. says

    Your post really helps put the journey into perspective, especially the part about the outcome of failure potentially being part of the plan. Excellent!

  23. Ashli says

    Maybe even in the marrow of our bones and the soul knitted together by His hands, we achingly know that only He deserves lifting up.

  24. says

    Thank you for this post! Knowing his family, you will not find more humble hearts. They are believers and Jesus was shining through Phillip. I’ve been praying for him since he won that the Lord will protect him from the big, scary music world.

  25. says

    Every word you wrote resonated. What a relief to embrace our smallness within His bigness.
    His fame. His alone.
    Thank you, Emily

  26. Valerie D says

    Powerful posting! When I watched it seemed that what you wrote is just what I was feeling although I had no words for it. Thanks for putting words to it!

  27. Sharon O says

    Your words and thoughts were awesome and I agree with you but the second piece of the ‘picture’ was his health. Immediately after the Idol ending he was going into kidney surgery and he was indeed very ill. So with that in mind his energy was used for singing and performing and by the two hour finale he was done.
    We have all been there, when you are so sick you cannot hardly stand up.
    He was done and perhaps even just wanted to go rest.
    He will do well. He will be unique and awesome and we can encourage him as much as we can.
    The other piece we can do is pray for his health and healing.

  28. Kate Marie says

    I do watch Idol and voted for Philip. He’s down to earth and doesn’t just follow what he’s told to do. At his young age, he’s his own person. I, too, cried at the ending and wish him every blessing from heaven.

  29. says

    I think you really got what was going on with him. It was a precious, beautiful thing to watch. Such a humble person. He was that way through the entire AI season and I hope he remains this way.

  30. Elizabeth says

    He was so humble the entire season and I loved his reaction too. I was rooting for him all season and I was not this calm! Just finished a ladies Bible study at church using Grace for the Good Girl book. The thoughts and pondering about GRACE continues to tumble across my mind. Thank you for freely sharing your writing gifts with all of our unknown faces:)

  31. Kate Marie says

    I think it must be very difficult to go from a young person who loves singing at home and for a few folks they know to being a new “star” that many people will want a piece of. The temptations these young people are exposed to is frightening. Philip seems to have a very level head on his shoulders. And, he has a family that will be his anchor through it all. God must have a plan for this young man; a person who was sick most of the show and experiencing a great deal of pain. I may be a 62 year old grandma…but I can’t wait to buy his first CD.

  32. says

    That is an amazing quote!! I love it.

    I also love how you sometimes put into words what I’m thinking when I don’t even realize I’m thinking it. I watched the finale and as he stepped into the arms of his family I was struck by how familiar that place is for all of us. Surrounded by the lights and attention he seemed to only want that moment with them. So sweet.

  33. says

    Beautiful. Especially – we are not made for fame. We are made for the Famous One. So true. I’ve always been frightened of fame, and probably for good reason.

  34. says

    You hit the nail on the head. Because even in our smaller circles and our more circumscribed stages, we place people higher than they belong (ourselves included.) But I never thought of it in the way that you and Jon put it.

    This Idol winner makes me wish I’d watched it all season. I’ve only watched it here and there. Also, Philip Phillips is a dead ringer for my husband in his looks and mannerisms…except my guy cannot sing. All sorts of my friends, those near and far, keep texting me about the uncanny resemblance! It’s crazy. So I sort of have a soft place in my heart for this winner. And I hope he stays small.

  35. says

    This was just brilliant. Such a profound insight that we are not made for fame. You express it so beautifully – thank you for this.

    I have been thinking about American Idol – recently blogged about how Jennifer Lopez has been a model of encouragement for me. It is interesting to evaluate the culture of these kinds of shows!

    I like the line about him disappearing into his family. I think we should all probably do a bit more of that – at least for our spiritual family.

  36. Susanne says

    If our souls weren’t made for fame, then an awful lot of famous souls are going to explode and soon. Humility is a foreign word to many. Keep your eye out for the fallout when the eruption begins.

  37. says

    I haven’t watched this show in a very long time; in fact, not since the 2nd or 3rd season because it has always seemed to be about people seeking fame.
    Your description and the video has shown me that perhaps not everyone on the show is after that.

    Thank you for sharing your opinion on this. Very inciteful.

  38. April says

    Brilliant! I live in the same town as Phillip and you are right on when you speak of his gently soul and humble spirit. It’s usually the quiet ones who teach us the most. Thanks for your words.

  39. says

    Being famous, I imagine, is one of the most confusing and hard lives you can lead. A human being can never live up to the expectations of millions. Only One ever did :) Beautiful post!

  40. says

    Emily, What a beautiful post! I’m just finding you by clicking on your link on Carrisa Graham’s site. I’m so glad to meet you and I look forward to stopping by a whole lot more. Blessings to you and it’s no wonder you are now the author of almost 2 books, you are a great writer!

  41. Heather says

    This was beautiful! I watched ai this season and kept watching because of Phillip Phillips’ talent, not only because he is our very own hometown boy. I can tell you that his grace and humble spirit was not reserved for this final show in his winning moments. He carried himself with integrity the entire season. What you also don’t know if you didn’t watch the show was that he struggled with kidney stones throughout the season and often performed in pain. He never complained or used that as an excuse or an attempt to get sympathy votes. I read that he endured 8 surgeries since the season began including one to place a stent, but you never would have known that. Also throughout the show, he held true to himself. I am very proud of our Georgia boy, and will be a fan for life.

  42. Patty says

    Very well said…… beautiful and profound. You (and Jon) said so succinctly what so many of us couldn’t articulate. I’ll be thinking on this for a while. I love the quote….. The human soul was not made for fame. We are made for the Famous One. The simple truth of that statement is mind-boggling. We’ve seen it so often….. the celebrities that self-destruct. We can’t handle what belongs only to God. We’re so very small and he’s so much we cannot hope to comprehend. But we will…… oh, yes…. we will.

    • says

      Thanks, Patty. I wish I could remember who Jon Acuff was quoting when he said that, but as someone else pointed out, maybe that’s for the best 😉

    • says

      “We can’t handle what belongs only to God.” Yes. Beautifully stated. Those words and these…”Our souls were not made for fame. Our souls were made for the Famous One.” … I’ll be chewing on those words for awhile. Grateful.

  43. Debbie says

    That moment made me cry! Such an awesome and humble guy. I know his family and they are also great people. I see they did a great job raising him. His oldest sister runs a local food, clothing and shelter building. They all have such big hearts! I met Phillip right before Hollywood week and he was so extremely shy. Haha

  44. says

    So ironic how the host often dropped the “American” in the show title and just call it “Idol.” (At least he did in the past. I haven’t watched in awhile.) Idols demand worship. I hope that this one will deflect any worship toward the the only One worthy of worship. Thanks for sharing this. I linked from BooMama and didn’t expect to have an answer to a question I have been asking confirmed.

  45. Merpati Indah says

    You, Phillip Phillips, is a great role model to all men that its okay for a man to be emotional & vulnerable; to feel & cry in times of sadness & happiness. You are my IDOL of all time… Your true artistic talent and nature shine through your beautiful deep soul on the stage to all of us, your fans. Keep up the great job; May you gain your full health back again soon. I also adore your loving great family. Take care! Looking forward to buy your new album!!! 😀

  46. says

    Oh my, that precious child. My heart felt what you were saying. We are made for the Famous One and not to be famous. My, oh my… Thank you.

  47. says

    Totally weeping. Don’t watch the show. Am not a weeper. But wow. Just wow. Thank you for this on a Saturday morning, Emily. You rock. He (as in the big He) rocks, big-time.

  48. says

    Oh, so true! We’re not made for fame or greatness, but to show how great He is. It’s so easy, though, to see people as famous, to think they’re more than they are. There’s such danger in both sides of this problem. Thank you for these thoughts, this reminder. So helpful.

  49. Destiny says


    (I just finished inscribing “Grace for the Good Girl” for another Good Girl friend seeking grace!)

  50. says

    Amen. I think this is something we have to be reminded of on a regular basis because it’s easy to elevate people and place a standard on them that we would never want to be judged by ourselves.

  51. says

    Me & my 13 yr old daughter have watched this season together, and so enjoyed the finale… It was one of the sweetest moments on TV. We were so happy that such a sweet humble young man won. It was a testimony to my daughter on how to handle the attention, humbly.

  52. says

    I watched this season of American Idol and had been voting for Joshua. However, my husband favored Phillip throughout the season. When it came down to the finale though, I went with Phillip. And I too loved his response. I cried along with him and his family. A beautiful post and thank you for sharing the video so I could cry …again.

  53. Barbara says

    I just want to say, I know Phillip and his family. They were part of my church family, before I had to move. His family, friends, hometown all the voters all over the USA had supported him throughout the show and I think he felt that he owed everyone the win, but not to become an idol to anyone. He is a very humble young man. I think Phillip will be content to just make music, not to become a big superstar but to become the best he can be. Phillip has written gospel music and I always said I wish both he and his Sis would go into gospel, but that is me. I watched American Idol, but only because Phillip was on the show. Your post was beautifully stated and brought to mind, Phillip has said more than once, that he just enjoys making music and I don’t really think he will ever change. He is true to himself, he is Phillip Phillips, a very sweet and humble young man. I am very proud to know him and his family and can say without a doubt, what you see is what you get. That was Phillip being Phillip when he won American Idol. I would be proud to call him my son any day of the week. I think all the ladies at church want to do the same! He is a sweetheart! It was a beautiful moment and I was so glad I witnessed him win.

  54. Patricia says

    Beautifully written ~ what a beautiful humble reaction to winning…I watched and loved it…I sense that he doesn’t want any of the fame. As he said over and over throughout the shows, “I just want to play music”… Can’t get any better than that! Nothing forced, or artificial. I loved the way he always shook hands and made a point of thanking all the backup musicians and singers throughout his performances.

    Thanks for this post Emily ~ smack on :)

  55. J says

    Amazing and so timely for me,i just felt led to pray before even finishing the article! God is good and reigns forever more. 😀

  56. says

    I did watch the finale and how Phillip handled it was so touching. You could almost feel his emotions and how he went into the cocoon of his family showed you how all most of really want is our families in times of both tragedy and elation.

  57. says

    You have so many comments, I hesitate to leave one.

    But I’ve come back to this post twice now, to re-read, and feel I owe you a small gift of words.
    This exact issue is so current in our lives. And you have given my mind a place to put thoughts of grandeur.

    Reminding me at Whose feet the treasure is rightfully poured.

    Well done, friend. Blessings to you.

  58. Tasha says

    I did watch this. It was so touching. He is an amazing young man. He endured 8 kidney stone surgeries through out the competition. I loved that when it all hit him he quietly walked off stage and embraced his Father.

    That should be our response when glory tries to fall on us, run to our Father and lay it all on Him.

    Thank you for sharing this post with us,


  59. Karin Larsen says

    It’s 4am here on the Oregon Coast. I am here in a lovely home we built, my husband of 15 years and I . he left. he left our dream and found another. he doesn’t look back, he destroyed all his good work, relationships. gone like dust. something took him and he turned his back on us and i will never know why.

    I woke from a dream where I was in a house pushing a button and the window came down like a huge car window, and suddenly I was in a river, the house was in a river and I was allowing the water to come in, then i pushed the button and the window rose up and it kept the water out. This house was once a welcoming and special place for friends, family, guests, community. I prayed to let God have this place we made, my husband and i, who crafted so much of it with his own hands, and was so pleased with his work. it’s not ours anymore, it’s a place that needs love in it again. I have struggled for a year to make ends meet. I got out of bed and googled “what does God want me to do with this house” and I found chattingatthesky. I see what a lovely gift you have made. really, lovely. thank you. i am reminded about gifts and time and loss and love and family and hope. and grace, which for me is letting each day in and putting on my shoes and taking in life as it is given to me this day. Blessings to you.

    • says

      Karin – I am so very sorry for the pain of this abandonment. But I think you for these remarkable words, for their beauty, simplicity, for both the ache of longing and the gentle beauty of surrender. You have found your way to a most beautiful place here at Emily’s. And there are some wonderful communities out here in cyberspace, too. Praying that you will find joy again, that the pain will ease and lessen, that you will know what to do about your house and its many memories. Thank you so much for being courageous enough to put these words out here – they are such lovely ones.

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