Overcoming Ignobiliphobia – fear of insignificance

It started out just leaning on me.  I could bear the weight and still stand, but it grew stronger.  Pretty soon hunching over didn’t cut it—I was on my knees.  I threw my shoulder into it, but even that gave way.  My arms weren’t strong enough to keep it from coming down on me.

It started nearly three years ago when I graduated college.  What started, you ask?  My fight against insignificance.  I want to be something, do something, have a purpose.  I don’t want to be insignificant.  When in school, I always had the opportunity to prove myself: get better grades, lead more groups, volunteer with more ministries.  The vision cast in college is to discover what you do well in order to choose a career best using those skills, and for me, for God’s glory.  The goal: success and achievement!  Well, I met that goal in graduating a semester early with summa cum laude and a double major.  However, more didn’t follow.  Nope, just insignificance.

Why is insignificance so hard?  We are preached at that we must do much for God and for our neighbor.  We must find ways to prioritize and juggle all the important things in life.  We must figure out what we are created to do and do it.  Some will say it doesn’t have to be big, but everyone secretly hopes that means someone else doesn’t have do something big—not them.  We want to be the servant that reaped 10-fold on his investment.  We want the assurance that God will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Note: Not a bad thing to desire, but the merit isn’t our own.)

I am one of those “we.”   One of my greatest fears is that I won’t do what God is calling me to do—that I won’t use the gifts he has given me the most effectively.  I don’t want to be insignificant for God.  I don’t want to disappoint.  For three years, I have prayed, explored options, and moved forward seeking to follow the will of God for my life.  For three years, I haven’t seen great fruits of my labor.  I can’t look back yet and see the purpose God has for this season.  I am still too much in the midst (and mist?) for the hindsight 20/20.

However, I am weary of trying to prove myself.  Instead of avoiding insignificance as if it is a sin or plague, I have come to view it as a refining fire.  God may call me to be insignificant.  I have to be okay with that, because he is the one who is significant.  He always will be, no matter who I am.  I may not be able to point to what I have done for him or for myself or others for that matter.  I may feel like he is wasting the skills and gifts he gave me by not giving me opportunities to exercise them, but if I am emulating him, does that really matter anyway?  It’s about what HE did, not me.  Even more, wasn’t Jesus apt to do the insignificant?  Didn’t he say the least are the greatest?  Didn’t he tell us to be the servant? Yes.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” Mark 10:45

My name may never be known, I may never make history, I may never even have descendants to remember my legacy, but I will have an eternal reward.  I will have Jesus forever.  Then I will truly understand how little my significance matters in light of who he is.  The fact that he is God and I am made in his image is truly enough significance.

I couldn’t fight insignificance, but it didn’t crush me.  It taught me that I am less and He is more.

Fanning the Flame–with persistence

A couple weeks ago, I went camping solo for the first time–well, not really solo but without my parents.  My friend and I drove up to the beloved Adirondacks to soak in some sweet pine scent, stars, mountain views, and freedom from technology.  We were successful in achieving all that we desired to accomplish but not without some effort.  The most comical episode came after first passing our campground due to poorly labeled maps, roads and no GPS signal, setting up the tent in the dark, and searching for a gas station in the remote woods. Yes, the ultimate struggle took the shape of a neatly formed, tepee of sticks.  adirondack camp fireNow I by no means have the skill of an eagle scout, but growing up as a staff kid in the Adirondacks, I had my fair share experience in making a campfire.  So I was not at all surprised when our fire lit and burned beautifully.  Burned beautifully for 30 seconds, that is. Then there was no more fire–nothing but smoke blowing away.  Okay, the wood we gathered though seemingly dry must have been a bit damp.  We stuffed in more paper, lit it again, and blew on those baby flames willing them to catch the sticks on fire.  This repeated probably five times and about twenty minutes later, we finally had a campfire lit and ready for roasting marshmallows.

As I sat there finally enjoying the mesmerizing flames leap back and forth, I was reminded how potent fire can be if it gets going.  It took a lot of persistence and babying to get that fire started, but once some large sticks were burning, that fire wasn’t going out anytime soon.  In fact, by the time we went to bed, I had to douse it with water.  It was worth the effort, and I am so glad we didn’t give up.  Believe me, after the third try it really seemed hopeless, but we wanted those s’mores!

Don’t give up! That was the testimony my campfire blazoned.

When I look at the world around me and even at my own life in the process of sanctification, it can seem hopeless.  The attempts we make to witness or change the social evils of the world appear to fizzle out. Our work may seem in vain, but it is not. We have the foreknowledge of assured victory, for our “fire” is not of this world.  It is not even ours.  It is the Holy Spirit’s.  Only he can change the hearts of people. This reason encourages us to not give up!  We do not act on our strength, but we must act all the same.  We are the instruments of God’s Spirit–the breath fanning the flames. We can give our all for the Kingdom of God!  Keep blowing–spreading the gospel, and caring for the disadvantaged–God will bring about a “fire” that won’t end.  Don’t ever give up on that!