Thursday, June 20, 2013

Significance


 "I'll have the 6 oz. sirloin, medium-rare, with the scallops.” A restaurant close to most of our group was the chosen locale. It was good to interact with high school and college buddies who have been there in significant points of my journey. Soon we were savoring food prepared according to our requests. Men leaned in as a few in the group shared about trials of recent days. It was good to be among friends that showed through attentiveness and nods of understanding that they cared about each person verbalizing personal and recent experiences.
Seated around the table that night was a CEO of a not-for-profit, a web-developer who sang at my wedding,  a medical doctor who has earned the respect of many patients on the west side of Indianapolis,  a pastor of a large multi-site church walking through a difficult transition in his own life, and an Eli Lilly engineer who was leading a team to eventually be able to implant a pump into someone’s noggin to  provide the brain with a medication to fight against a terminal disease.  Well, you know I was seated there too….  I change diapers well and keep my kids rash free most of the time, flip thin pancakes on Friday mornings, unload and reload the dishwasher daily, fold clothes on “leave a legacy” levels, and make sure Wednesday night meals are "to die for" when Sarah comes home from work.

As I listened to my friends converse, more potent than the taste of the food or rich camaraderie, to me that evening was the need for each one of us to feel that we were making a significant contribution. Engrained in most healthy, well-adjusted persons is a desire to be remembered for something good and noble by the next generation, and that desire must be managed well. 

All who know the men mentioned above discern they have reached a level others would immediately identify as “success.” And, they’ve made sacrifices for the attainments in their professions. I know the admonition that one is to never compare, but I came home that night not only encouraged from being with great guys, but pained because I wondered if I was leaving a visible mark anywhere -- feeling a little like I’m wasting away making sure I make it to the next Tae Kwon Do or ballet class, while warming up a bottle in case I need to feed a baby.  I told Sarah all about the feelings when I got home, and she listened….  My own little identity crisis….

I find these principles to be powerful when I struggle with my identity, and by no means is it an exhaustive list.

Be authentic…
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” Dr. Seuss

 “Do not let your peace depend on the hearts of men; whatever they say about you, good or bad, you are not because of it another man, for as you are, you are.” Thomas a’ Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
Authenticity is strengthened when I embrace my current circumstances and responsibilities and tackle them with my own personal flair. I think I’m becoming more and more comfortable with my personal motto being, “What you see is what you get.” God didn’t call me to be anyone else, so as Kierkegaard once said, “And now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.”

 Be dead…
It’s not ultimately about my desires, my dreams, or constructing a personal destiny. Actually, it involves surrender to a higher purpose while striving to take the next obedient step. Even though I’d like to be the provider in our family, at present I surrender to fanning any flames of nurture and empathy that exist in my soul.

 Jesus died and lived this principle as well. “I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24

You and I must die well to live well. When I die to longings that are destructive for me, there is no telling what may multiply from the act of obedience. As a stay-at-home dad, I’ll need to die to some desires. But, I’d be dying to other ones if I were building my professional resume’ as well.
Be humble…

 A few quotes about humility that I like are…
“If you compare yourself with others, you may be bitter or vain, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” Max Ehrman

 "All through history God has chosen and used 'nobodies,' because their unusual dependence on Him made possible the unique display of His power and grace. He chose and used the 'somebodies' only when they renounced dependence on their natural abilities and resources.” Oswald Chambers

I wish I were practicing more reliance on God while tackling the challenges of consistently offering guidance to three preschoolers that I adore -- just because they are my kids. Though it is a privilege to be with them a majority of the time, it is also humbling, based upon traditional and cultural expectations of a “man.”  Difficulty arises when I wonder why I’m not developing expertise outside the home when my buddies  are out achieving what I consider significant accomplishments.  So, I tell myself, “Swallow…. It’s OK for right now….”
Be connected…

Easy, right!? Nope, not even with all the gadgets we have to stay connected.  When a person benefits from rich conversation and interaction that boosts and undergirds his/her sense of worth, now THAT is a gift to treasure.

I would suggest that most important in a person’s sense of significance and identity is a devotion to God Almighty that results in a feeling of "belonging” or “connectedness” to Him. There’s a certain sense of completion in that.

Yet, often, love from God is expressed through people. There are plenty of needy people around each one of us. Someone has said, “If you don’t like your lot in life, build a service station on it.” If you find a place to serve, it will aid in helping to feel connection. If I’m not called upon to do what many would consider to be “important,” then I can volunteer at the VBS where my kids attend, hand out flyers at the church door to make people feel welcome, or even teach my kids’ Sunday School class -- it all serves to connect me with my kids and with others.
C.S. Lewis said, “I become my own only when I gave give myself to Another.” What I notice about that quote is the "Another" is capitalized. A sense of connection to others and life begins with God.

Be grateful…
Many would trade places with me in a heartbeat. Thankfully, I wouldn’t be so quick to trade my privileged position anymore. Life is often spent pining rather than accepting and finding internal gratitude in a season of life.

Two verses that come to mind about being grateful were penned by the Apostle Paul, when he was writing the Philippian church. He wrote, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 6, 7) You and I are exhorted to take our heartfelt desires to God. When we express them, it tells us to offer the requests with thanksgiving, or gratitude. I find that giving thanks while I pray helps my perspective as I reflect on what God has already done. I also step toward the future in grateful hope that the Lord is working for my own good, as He has already promised.

 Can you and I measure significance, impact, or the size of a footprint a life leaves behind? I think that you and I will be amazed when we see what God considers to be significant. For now, I choose to be authentic, dead, humble, connected, and grateful.

6 comments:

Ruth said...

Excellent post. Praying for you today. Your significance to your family is huge. It's not always easy to see that when you're in the middle of the mundane!

John Lee said...

So true about being in the middle of the mundane. Blessings!

Glenn said...

Good post, John. I recently was reading the lineage of Christ and I got stuck at Jesse. He was "simply" the father of David and eventually in the lineage of Christ. We never know the impact we have in the world. Sometimes, it's just to be a line in the story (no big accomplishments or "success" but just a line). I think you are successful.... and I love Seuss.

John Lee said...

Thank a bunch for the kind words, Glenn... Even if I am just a line, I'd like to be more than a line;). But, I'm becoming more comfortable with being a "line in the story." God is good... Blessings on you, Glenn!

Frank said...

"Great (and good, as in 'God') thoughts, expressed well, providing food for the soul and fodder for the mind," jotted the English professor on John's paper, using encouraging green ink in place of the traditional red.

John Lee said...

Thank you Frank! Kind and encouraging of you to say...