Are you accomplishing something significant? Do you see yourself as significant?
Feeling significant is a major quest for some people. In fact, it is a deep-rooted identity issue. Our society contributes to this issue by attempting to make everyone feel significant–thus our kids play games at school where there are no winners or losers. On one level we could legitimately say that in our culture “feeling significant” is a basic human need.
In Richard Rohr’s outstanding book, Adam’s Return: The Five Promises of Male Initiation, he describes the practice of male initiation rites and vision quests that many cultures have practiced throughout the ages. His study reveals that there are five common themes in all male initiation rites, no matter the people or culture. These five themes, which he calls promises, are:
- Life is hard
- You are not important
- Your life is not about you
- You are not in control
- You are going to die
Having been taught these five promises of life, through a male initiation rite, men were better equipped to live genuine lives and to lead well.
All five of these promises strike me as profoundly true and whether I observe them individually or collectively I am struck by the common notion that, in a sense, we are not significant.
Consider yourself in relation to time. The universe has existed for a very long time and more than likely will continue to exist for a very long time after you are dead. What is the scope of your significance in terms of time?
Consider yourself in relation to the magnitude of the universe. The universe is larger than anyone can possibly measure, and according to many it is constantly expanding. What is the scope of your significance in terms of the magnitude of the universe?
Quite frankly, apart from our family and friends none of us are very significant at all. As a result of this we often search for significance in what we accomplish. For the most part this seems futile as well. The threat of disaster or new technology always looms over the horizon, either of which might wipe away all that we’ve worked so hard to accomplish.
If significance is not found within one’s self or in what one accomplishes, where is significance to be found?
Significance is found in the simple truth: I am created in the image of God and am deeply loved by Him.
This truth is liberating. It is completely freeing. It means that I no longer have to search for reasons to stand out from the crowd. I no longer have to distinguish myself as unique and/or different. I no longer have to accomplish something that outlives me in order to be significant.
I am significant in spite of my insignificance.
This simple truth would make a world of difference for leaders. It would allow them to hold their agendas with open hands, recognizing that their significance is not wrapped up in their dreams or accomplishments. It would allow them to lead out of places of brokenness and humility, rather than pride and arrogance. Embracing this truth, leaders would spend more time in silence as they simply accept a significance that is given to them and is not their own. They in turn would be freed to lead other insignificant people to find true significance.
I believe that the hope for the church lies in the repentance of her leaders. Those of us who are called to lead must confess the insignificance of our own lives and agendas so that we are left with nothing to cling to and nothing to champion other than the cross of Jesus–the confirmation that insignificant people are significant beyond measure.