On Significance

Insignificance is the human nightmare. Being nothing and mattering to no one is our existential terror. My recurring fear is imagining myself a researcher who has invested 25 years in her lab following a once promising hypothesis only to lock the lab on a final day realizing that the pursuit was a dead end, her life work irrelevant. Others share such fears.

Florida has spectacular clouds. Towering and billowing and showy and beautiful, they ultimately leave no evidence of ever having been. We shudder to apply that as a metaphor to our lives. We want to matter for more than appearance. We want to leave something of substance in our wake. We fear we never will.

My son confronted extreme difficulty the other day and when I went to him, his first words out of his mouth were not “do you forgive me?” but rather “are you disappointed in me?” The ache of any child’s heart is to hear that he matters, that his daddy is proud of him. It’s the desire of all our hearts, really. If I could hear that, I think the fear of insignificance would simply drift away.

Parents who want to give that message to their children boast of their work. A child sketches and scribbles a picture on a piece of notebook paper, and the parent immediately pins it on the refrigerator. Judged by a purely objective standard, the picture lacks the quality of great art. But the child has significance as she is loved, and as her parent shows his pride in what he considers her well done works.Fridge

The word I long to hear from God is not “I forgive you.” I hear that every Sunday and know it to be true. The word I long to hear is “Well done.” The works I do, judged by a purely objective standard, certainly lack the quality of great works. But my significance lies not in the works, but in the love of my father. I like to think that he has pinned my works on his refrigerator door. He is a good father, proud of me, his son.

All we do we do under the watchful eye of a loving and understanding father. Our works are weak and our production spotty. But this heavenly Father loves us. He puts our pictures on his refrigerator. There is no insignificant child of God.

2 thoughts on “On Significance

  1. Suzanne

    This was beautiful and compelling!

    Often as humans we feel insignificant because we measure ourselves to those around us and we feel we should have accomplished more, or should have been more successful. We often fail to realize the positive impact we may have made on others, because we rarely hear positive recognition from the important people in our life.
    We live in a world that is constantly critiquing and challenging us to to things differently and do things better. This starts as a child, and goes well in our adult life. Just as a child longs to be assured of our love, we long for that same assurance by our family, friends, employers, and by those we may lead. Positive recognition/reinforcement is key to producing a healthy self-esteem where we feel valued, loved, accepted, and thought well of by others. This is turn carries over to how much we value, love, and accept ourselves.
    In a leadership role, positive recognition is often forgotten for the leader. It is not intentional, but rather comes due to the fact that leaders are usually the ones listening to the struggles of others, and then being the provider of the encouragement and positive affirmation for others.
    I would guess that pastors get more feedback and critiquing regarding what should have been said, or done differently, and receive very little praise for what they have said or done.
    Perhaps we don’t do it because as Christians, we equate praise and recognition with pride?
    Regardless, we all need to be encouraged, and we should all take time to recognize those that have positively impacted our lives. Why do we wait till one departs this world before we genuinely acknowledge, or pay tribute to them? Or to say, “Well done?”

    I appreciate the countless hours that you have spent listening and supporting/encouraging me in my walk with Christ. I have no doubt that you have made a positive impact on countless individuals over the years! For dedicating your life to helping others, I am sure that you are significant not only in our eyes, but in Gods eyes, and if there is a refrigerator in heaven, I’m confident your work of art is on it.

    Thanks for all you do!

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