In many conversations about significance, I believe there a fundamental difference between men and women (generally, not necessarily across the board). When men meet one another about the first thing we ask each other is, “What do you do?” I do it all the time. It’s just a curiosity thing – when you’re not with friends and family, how do you spend the 40-50ish hours a week making a living? Do you enjoy it? Is it unique? Are you solving world hunger? Are you living your dream? Or are you just looking for the next paycheck.
When women meet each other, on the other hand, they usually don’t go to the profession card immediately. Perhaps they’re more grounded and secure than men seeing that caring for those closest to them is the most significant way to define oneself. My sister says that having lived on the East Coast, especially in Washington, D.C., people too often judge one another by one’s profession.
So as we start over in a new city and I meet the casual jogger, the Target checker, and the busy neighbor I ponder my significance. Who am I? What am I? Do I matter? (Please don’t read this is not an “I need a hug” moment.) I know I’m significant because I’m a child of God, that He knows me, and that three gals and one little man think I’m the coolest thing since sliced bread. There’s something inside me (and probably many of you) that really want to do something in life: cure cancer, win a Superbowl, cut a record, or find homes for thousands of abandoned children. What steps should I take today? What phone calls should I make? What parks should I take my kids to? Which church should I attend?
I want to be used by God to do something significant. I don’t know what. The selfish side of me wants it broadcast on CNN and Facebook. The humble side of me only wants God’s peace and approval. Am I a pastor? I was never ordained; I have a ways to go on the Scripture memory thing. But I love many parts of it. Am I a teacher? I haven’t been in the classroom full time since ‘99. But I love kids so much. Am I a coach? Training kids to run may have been my professional highlight the past five years.
Now my 2 Spiritual Cents to solve this problem – I’ve been reading the Book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament and I hit an “aha” moment last week. In this story, God is preparing to banish the Hebrews for 70 years to Babylon because of ongoing disobedience. God tells Jeremiah that He’s going to use His servant Nebuchadnezzar (and his son and grandson) to lead Judah during those 70 years. But Neb was Babylonian! The enemy! God can use anyone he wants to do anything – now there’s some hope for our less confident sides. Then Jeremiah, about the only Israelite in Judah obeying God, is threatened with death by his own people. Both Nebuchadnezzar and Jeremiah are used by God to accomplish His purposes.
Jeremiah was significant. He was God’s messenger who put his life on the line. In spite of Nebuchadnezzar’s evil ways, he too was used by God. I guess you could say he too was significant. Where do I want to be? Jeremiah without the pain; Nebuchadnezzar without the evil. Essentially, the easy road. How much should we try to pre-write our own lives to set them up for God to use us? (“Okay, God, now that I’ve graduated and have the perfect family and job, NOW you can use me.”) So the easy road and the desire for outward praise/significance probably aren’t the way to go.
God, make me significant for your benefit, not mine.