A walk around the neighborhood inevitably leads me past a house with a sign that reads: “On this place in 1887, nothing happened.” (I live in a kind of eclectic neighborhood – it is also home to the “beer can” house – a man the other day actually stopped me on the road to ask me where it was. Clearly a tourist attraction… But a post for another time!) I think the sign is pretty funny to be honest! But walking past it at least once a week for the past two years, I have had ample time to (possibly over-) analyze it. And today it made me some kind of uncomfortable…
Isn’t that our biggest fear? If we are willing to be brutally honest, don’t we all wonder, at the end of our lives, at the end of our day, if we will be marked with a sign: “In this life, nothing happened.” She did nothing of value. He left nothing deserving remark. They were nice, but there’s really nothing more to say. If you’re willing to be vulnerable with me for a minute, don’t you kind of worry that that might be all they see? I do. I want to leave a mark, even if it’s subtle. We long for significance, and I think that’s of God.
What isn’t of God, I don’t believe, is our world’s definition of significance. We mistakenly think significance will bring with it honor and prestige, glory and fame. I tend to think something is significant only if it is better than anything anyone else has ever done. I want to do something someone notices; if I’m really honest, I’d prefer to do something lots of people notice. We compare our acts to the acts of others and gage our significance off of our success in light of theirs. With this definition, our significance can only come at the cost of someone else’s. I always feel a little sorry for the “previous record holder.” Who wants to be the second-fastest-swimmer?
It’s enough to defeat me if I really start to think about it. Because I’m not even the second-best at anything! And, most likely, neither are you (maybe you are – in that case, leave a comment!). So where does that leave us? Destined for a life of mediocrity? I hope not. And I think the Lord really hopes not. My Bible study today led me to this verse:
Mark 10:43-44 “…whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave to all.”
I’ll be the first to confess that this is not my world-view on any given day. I would rather have a servant than be one – especially when it comes to cleaning the stove. Oh, sure, I’m willing to give water to the man on the corner, but it usually isn’t because I want to “serve” him. On a good day, it’s because I realize he is nothing less than my equal and might be thirsty. On a bad day, it’s just to quell my own sense of guilt and duty. I’m just being honest…
And to wash my brother’s feet? To look into the eyes of someone that, according to the standards of this world, is an equal or even a superior and then to bow before them and wash the dirt from their feet? My pride catches in my throat. I fear my knees would lock before they’d bend.
So back to Mark… I am working off the assumption that most of us “wish to be great… wish to be first.” The way I see it then, we’ve got two options. We can either be servants or we can be made to be servants. I can humble myself and be exalted by God (1 Peter 5:8) or I can exalt myself and be humbled by God. A healthy dose of Godly fear has me convinced that both He and I would rather I do the humbling! But what does that look like? And how do I do it? In theory, it’s great; in application, it’s rather hypothetical, don’t you think?
Humility – true, healthy, not-fake humility – I think, comes from raising our eyes and looking upon the cross, peering into the the throne room. The only way to humble ourselves is to take our eyes off of ourselves!
Our significance isn’t wrapped up in our accomplishments at all. And certainly it isn’t tied to “success.” Maybe nothing of worldly significance will come from my life. Perhaps they’ll write about me or about you: “On July 5, 2010, she did nothing all day.” And yet, in an irony that must be the Lord, our true significance is found only when we lose ourselves completely in Him! We know He has plans for us, and when we get over needing “significance” as we’ve viewed it, perhaps we will find ourselves free to live into His purposes.
Matthew 16:25: “Whoever wishes to save his life [whoever seeks his own fame, worth, significance apart from me] will lose it; but whoever loses his life [becoming completely absorbed with My glory rather than hers] will find it.”
Lord, that this would be more than hypothetical! Can we boldly lay our lives down for You? What lives will we find when we do?