Growing up, I wanted to be a famous rock star. But my expectations were left unmet. After years of trying to be something I wasn’t and experiencing chronic dissatisfaction and disappointment with my life, I came to understand my burning desire for fame was really a craving for significance. Eventually, I came to understand fame and significance are two very different things.
I learned that the longing for significance is actually a God given desire; it is a seed planted by the hand of God to cause us to seek the One who can grow and cultivate it into a life that bears fruit for His glory. A significant life isn’t one that is always noticed by many, but one that has meaning and purpose.
Significance does not come from natural abilities, gifting, or talent, but from who He is in us. Humans are made in the image of God and each one carries a unique expression of God. The image of Himself that He has breathed into each individual is needed for one to exercise his or her area of influence within the culture. Each life is so significant that a portion of God’s plan for the earth rests upon that individual’s unique expression of Him. Can you imagine anything more significant?
Significance is not as obvious to the world as fame because it is often reserved for those we encounter in quiet places of hurt, desperation, and hopelessness, and for those with whom we walk closely. To the ones who receive our particular expression of God, the effects can be life changing.
Culture has handed us a skewed understanding of significance. It has trained us to expect drama, shooting stars, and Technicolor rainbows any time something extraordinary happens. But the reality is that God’s extraordinary work is often quiet, deep, and internal. It is easy to miss the real miracles that take place in life each day because we are looking for the dramatic and obvious. We have to train ourselves to perceive what God is doing around us and THROUGH us; if we will look, we will see. Never underestimate the power of a simple act of kindness or an encouraging word.
I used to think that because I didn’t stand out in the crowd that my life wasn’t all that amazing. I believed only the obviously significant ones made a difference. Then I read what John the Baptist said about Jesus: “but there stands One among you whom you do not know.” (John 1:26b) The word used for “know” means “to perceive.” Though the greatest and most significant man ever born was standing among them, He didn’t stand out—and the people who were around Him didn’t perceive who He was. That same man today has literally changed the world, not with drama and theatrics, but with subtle power, humility, and obedience.
It’s interesting that Jesus had less than obvious significance for most of His life. Miraculously conceived, He was born into obscurity. And the least significant people of all—the shepherds in the field tending the stinky dirty sheep—were given a birth announcement. Born to two outwardly normal young people, nobody saw the true origins of Jesus, conceived in a virgin by the Holy Spirit. That extraordinary miracle took place in a private setting without any fanfare whatsoever. It just was.
Its existence was significant but not obvious. Even the place of His birth belied the impact His life would have on humanity. His childhood for the most part was so uneventful that we only have mention of one episode in the whole narrative of the New Testament.
Fame is not an indicator of significance, thank God! I am so glad I came to the realization that I don’t have to be famous in order to be significant. All of those unmet expectations that plagued me have now been brought to the foot of the cross and left there. Life on the resurrected side of the cross brings deep satisfaction and fruitfulness and He often exceeds my expectations.
Like Jesus’ life, our lives can seem insignificant because we don’t stand out in the crowd. You may not perceive anything extraordinarily significant about your life, but when you gaze through the eyes of the Spirit, your perception is adjusted to the truth. Each one of us is masterfully designed by God to be significant. Embrace your unique design with boldness and confidence knowing the Lord delights in His creation. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
By Dorothea Shields
To connect with Dorothea, visit Surrendered Ladies Bible Study on Facebook.