Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”(Matthew19:21 NLT)
Wasn’t it that great philosopher, Andy Warhol, who once said, “Everyone will be famous for 15 minutes?” The culture we live in flaunts the importance of popularity, fame and money without apology. Everyone, it seems, has a desire for notoriety. In truth, I think it’s an innate yearning to be worshipped. I wouldn’t doubt it’s that same fatal flaw that sent Lucifer careening out of Heaven’s door a millennia ago.
Reality television sends the same deliberate message–you’re nobody unless you’re somebody. As painful as it is for me to admit, I’ve entertained the same dream as a million others–to have my name up in lights, my own television show, to sell a gazillion records and accomplish great things.
Not long ago, my friend, Tommy, stopped me as I was heading out the door after church and said something that made me take pause. “You’ve always wanted your life to count, Tamra, to do something of value, to be someone others could admire. But, let me challenge you with this: live a life of significance rather than importance.”
I actually went home and looked up those two words in my Webster’s dictionary. Significance expresses a life full of value or worth… Importance relates more to having power or authority. I wasn’t sure why Pastor Tommy felt the need to share his thoughts with me. I’ve always thought that my life had been centered on the idea of helping others. I write books, I compose music and sing songs. Somehow this seemed to me the perfect path by which to touch lives for Jesus. Perhaps the motivation of the heart is really the issue in question. I don’t know about you, but sometimes it takes a while for me to find the light switch.
If our goal is the praise and admiration of those around us, then we may find exactly what we’re looking for: importance. But if our intent is to have the heart and character of God revealed in and through our lives, and to have our words and actions reflect the love of God above all else, then we will live a life of significance.
There aren’t many kudos for the prayer warrior who spends hours on his or her knees before God. There’s no mob of screaming fans for the woman who takes dinner to the widow, and yet Jesus said, “As you do this unto one of these, you do this unto me.”
I believe pride is the obstacle that stands in the way of our ability to live that life of significance my friend, Tommy, spoke of. We see ourselves in the light of human understanding and often place values on our lives that are predicated by world views. However, there comes a time in the life of every true seeker of God, when he or she must lay down all that we think we are and all that we hope to be, in order to be transformed into that vessel that God has planned us to be before the foundations of the world.
I remember the moment when I came to the painful realization that I would never accomplish the level of greatness I thought I was entitled to. I would likely never stand on a stage and sing for thousands of people, or have my name in lights on Broadway.
The sense of failure that overwhelmed me was palatable and I experienced a feeling of great loss, almost like a death. The transformation of a dream is often accompanied by a deep sense of bereavement. Yet out of death comes rebirth and an opportunity to explore avenues we never previously considered. The Lord’s definition of our perfection is entirely different than our own, and often requires the relinquishment of our hopes and dreams in order to see His plan unfold.
After months of dealing with my sense of loss, I was prepared to ask the difficult questions. What motivates me? What makes me feel important? What defines me? Why do I have these talents and for what purpose do I use them? In truth, the answers surprised me. I was motivated by the accolades of others. I felt important when I was appreciated for my talents. I realized I was defined not by who I am, but by what I do.
And these acknowledgements brought me to the foot of the cross of Christ. It was there that I laid down my abilities, my talents, my dreams and goals and requested God’s heart in my journey. I wanted Jesus to redefine me, and to make this vessel of human clay into the work of art He desired to look upon. It was a huge step of faith, and not one I took without great thought and consideration.
Once we relinquish our definition of self, and offer it up, then we must be redefined by the One receiving our sacrifice. Since we’re not exactly sure what form that new individual will take, it’s a bit frightening.
Here’s what I know for sure: nothing is wasted with God! He uses every gift and talent He’s given us, perhaps in different venues than we would like or hope, but He utilizes those unique and individual endowments in ways we can’t imagine. It’s much like giving up a cubic zirconium to receive a flawless diamond.
I can say with absolute certainty that I have no disappointment in the path I now walk. When Jesus told the rich, young ruler to sell all his possessions and give all he had to the poor, He was really asking him to trade the life he knew for a far more perfect existence. Today, I find myself grateful to be living this life of significance, rather than importance, and I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to understand the difference. I’ll always be grateful for the wise words of a friend that set my feet on the right path.