When I started blogging, it quickly became apparent that I had no idea what I was doing, so I signed up for a writers’ conference in hopes of finding help and maybe making some like-minded friends. At the conference, I was told that the aim of all things is to write a book and win a publishing contract. To that end, sessions focused on how to “pitch” to an agent, how to build a large online following, and how to market myself. These are necessary parts of publishing a book, and many sincere writers struggle with this part of the publishing process. But I also encountered many people just desperate to be noticed; to be heard and applauded. Somewhere in the process, their writing changed from a tender offering of hope to a means of becoming significant.
We all struggle with significance. We either find it in Christ, or we chase it through achievement, popularity, romance, or any other metrics that the world offers us.
So, what is significance? Is it the adrenaline-hit of success, or achieving the fifteen minutes of fame? Is it being known for something we’ve achieved or admired for a tragedy we’ve overcome? These things are indeed significant. But they don’t define our value anywhere but in the fleeting praises of others.
True significance comes through belonging to Christ. In Him, we are completely loved and valued. Through Him, we are freed to serve in the humblest places or from the biggest platforms because our self-worth doesn’t depend upon the opinions of others, or the world’s rubric of success, but instead on the simple fact that we belong to Him.
Here are a few people in my world who don’t have a platform or a publishing contract, but who I think have real significance:
The foster families who loved and cared for our babies before they came home to us. Do you know how critical it is for a newborn to feel safe, secure, and loved? That is significant.
The special education aide who dedicated herself to helping my son be safe and feel confident in the world. I see her efforts pay off in his life every day, decades later. Making your career around those Jesus deems worthy of special care doesn’t pay off much on earth, but in Heaven? Significant.
The friend from church who takes it upon herself to invite every new woman out to coffee. Nobody applauds her efforts, but to those new ladies, feeling awkward and unsure in a new place – that’s significant.
The people who have shown up in a time of crisis, who have sent notes and asked hard questions. Who have listened. Each act is enormously significant when you’re in a hard place.
The parents who dedicated themselves to raising their children in the love of God only to watch them go off the rails can’t see it, but those children have a knowledge and experience of God’s love and an understanding of His words that follow them even into those dark places. That is significant.
The people who adopt or foster or invite the latchkey child in or allow the troubled teen to crash on their couch? That one act could be the pivot of another person’s life from darkness to light. Significance.
The one who calls. Who visits. Who texts or sends a card or brings a meal to the lonely and hurting, shines a desperately needed light into their darkness, giving them courage and making them feel seen. Significance.
None of these people receive much notice, much less garner attention or admiration from others. But their lives are ones of significance in the ways that matter. I can put names to each of the people I’ve described above. You can probably make a similar list.
I almost threw in the towel after that weekend at the writers’ conference. All I want is to serve God and encourage His people. But in order to offer my words to the world, I was told that I need to post something witty every day on ALL the social media platforms, change my words to attract more hits from Google’s algorithm, and create a “brand” for myself. I just don’t have the heart for that, and decided that was okay.
In the end, it’s not the size of our audience or the number of our achievements that will determine our significance. It is not the suffering we wear like a badge or the number of likes on our carefully crafted Instagram stories. It is how we pour our lives into others. The ways we share hope. The thousand different gifts of love we offer that push back the darkness.
At the beginning of another year, as we make lists of resolutions, or take stock of our priorities, I’d like to pose a question: Are we more focused on being noticed, or on laying our lives down for Heaven? Are we striving for success?