This picture has been on the wall of my office for years.
[singlepic id=36 w=240 h=320 float=right] After nine years it has faded from its original glory, but it’s awesome isn’t it?
I know what you are thinking! “Why?” Right, that’s what you are thinking. I mean what is it supposed to be? I guess it’s supposed to be Shelbi’s Family and Friends, but in all honesty it’s Shelbi’s attempt to fill up the page with a marker. But what it is or supposed to be isn’t the point.
Now you ask, “So, why is it on your wall and why has it been there for nine years and what does this have to do with significance?”
I began putting my children’s art on my wall when some shelving was removed from my office and due to some cost cutting at the time it was never painted. So, in an effort to refuse to look at the unfinished wall I began posting art. Shelbi gave this to me with the intention of having me display it, proudly. Now there are other pieces of art that I’m not showing, and that don’t hang on any wall but they are tremendous. Shelbi has become quite the artist.
“Point?” My point is that the picture doesn’t hang on my wall because it’s a significant work. It doesn’t hang there because I’m proud at how well Shelbi drew her family and friends. It doesn’t hang there so people can be impressed with the skill of my child, or with the status that comes with owning such a priceless piece. It hangs there because Shelbi made it. It reminds me of the bright, inquisitive, determined little girl who drew it. I put it on the wall instead of in the trash because she asked me to. It’s a significant piece of work because I think Shelbi is significant.
I think in the big “R” Reality, in the true way that things actually are, what we think is significant really isn’t. What God thinks is significant is us, and it’s only because that He thinks that we are, that we are.
For context see parts 1 and 2.
There will be a part 4
[singlepic id=35 w=560 h=420 float=]Have you ever seen the movie, “The Incredibles.” I watched it again after my first post because it really deals with this struggle deep within the American consciousness that just being an insurance customer service employee is far from right especially when you used to be a super hero. The idea that second place is really first loser. The idea that trying not to win is somehow intimately tied to our lack of integrity.
I’m assuming that you are like me and this may be a really bad assumption, but I think it is steeped in our American psyche. When someone plays a prank on me I have always lived by the motto, “I don’t get even. I get ahead.” It’s why little pranks often escalate to the point where real physical and emotional harm is done. We can’t let anyone think that they got us.
It’s why we won’t pull out of Afghanistan or Iraq as losers. It’s why we weren’t willing to take the destructive acts of 9/11 on the chin, but had to one up those who had planned it with a display of shock and awe on a people, who by majority, did nothing to us.
It’s why we take ourselves so seriously, refuse to laugh at our mistakes, and refuse to allow our children to do anything but impress. It’s why my response to the prankster fails to be, “Man you really got me, that was awesome!”
There will be a Part 3…
I’m not sure about you but I don’t think it ever occurred to me to strive to be insignificant. I was never encouraged to shoot for mediocrity. I was never taught that God might just want me to be a nameless Christ-follower modeled by so many unnamed men and women in the Bible who did what God commanded and loved God with all of their heart, mind, soul, and strength.
Gideon was an important dude who was asked to do a seemingly impossible thing in whittling down his army to a few hundred in order to attack the vast Midianite army. It never occurred to me until recently, but what happened to the men who were sent away? The nameless ones who missed out on making a great memory for Israel. Were they completely disappointed, depressed, or even angry that they were left out?
Our American worldview contains a couple of subthemes (see Charles Kraft’s book Worldview for Christian Witness) that seem to be in direct opposition to one another. We firmly believe that all people should have an equal opportunity to achieve yet we also believe that a truly successful individual strives to be the best, to accumulate the most wealth, prestige, and power. So, we presume that while all should have the opportunity to achieve it is necessary for some to fail in order for us to achieve. We compete and no matter what the Win-Win situation is someone really loses and someone really wins.
Even when someone strives to go against the American consumeristic culture by promoting a simplistic life we go and try to make them into folk heroes because what they are sacrificing for needs to be significant in order to be worthy of the attempt.
But when Paul reflects on what Jesus had to do just to come down here and be with us it becomes clear that Jesus left significance behind. Paul says, “ Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.” (Phil 2:6-9)
How awe inspiring is that? That Jesus was God and became a slave and because of His obedience God the Father made Him the most significant figure in all of history. Jesus didn’t seek significance, but was made significant because of His willingness to fail. It was no greater failure then for a pure, holy, righteous, glorious God to be consumed by the sin of the entire history and future of people.
As I continue to struggle through this revelation and what it means for me in ministry, as a father, and as a husband let me also invite you to purge yourself of the desire for significance by acknowledging that only through our willingness to lose every game, to die penniless, to lead a church of 20, to never be read or heard or seen or revered…only then might the Father raise up our heads and speak the highest complement, “Well done, my son. Well done, my daughter.”