Achievements can be idols or icons
I wrote this letter to one of our Westwinds’ sons, Collin Martoia, who has flown south and done great things.
You’re an achiever. You might not feel like it. Chances are you just feel exhausted. But your accomplishments are impressive. Few people have done what you have done, and even fewer are capable of ascending to the heights you have attained.
I hope you feel proud. I feel proud of you. It’s hard not to smile when I think of what you’ve done.
The question now becomes what you will do with your achievements. How will you live now that you’ve earned such a remarkable life? What will govern your actions, your decisions, and your further ambitions?
I don’t mean to suggest that you don’t know, or that God is not a key component of the answers to these questions. I know you well enough to have confidence that Christ is at the center of your life. But I do hope to spark a new interest in the specifics of virtuous living. I want you to think about how you will glorify God. I want you to set aside some corner of your imagination for God-thoughts and God-dreams.
I have known two pilots in my short life. One flew commercial airliners in the South Pacific, and the other flew bush planes in the Arctic Circle. Both men loved God and wanted to use their gifts in service to Christ. But neither thought of their profession as a gift. They understood that their ability to fly planes was special, and they understood that when they flew it was part of following Jesus; but, when they examined the secret ambitions they held down deep, they realized there was more to life than flying. The airline pilot devoted himself to education, using his prestige to influence young people and inspire them to rise above their circumstances. The bush pilot devoted himself to humanitarian aid, using his contacts up north as a means of getting into otherwise hostile territory.
Our achievements can either be an end unto themselves, or they can be folded into our lives as one component of who we are before God. They can either be idols—things we look at that distract us, that seem like they deserve acclaim and require we pay special attention to them—or they can be icons—things that cause us to direct our praise and thanksgiving to God, requiring we employ them for his use.
The Garden-City Epistles is about our cooperative work with God. Each of us has been charged to develop our imagination, vocation, and connections so God’s glory increasingly covers the earth.
Your achievements are exemplary—please don’t think I’m somehow diminishing their praiseworthy nature—but now you must take your achievements and leverage them in service to Christ. Your accomplishments will open new doors. They will earn you additional influence. They will provide you with resources. But you must decide which doors you will go through, what you will do with that influence, and how you will leverage those resources.
Who do you want to be, now that you’ve earned what you wanted to achieve?