Of Eternal Significance: How to Make the Corners of Your Life Matter for Eternity
I recently read a story that inspired me so much. It was about a man who had some type of campus ministry. Through months (or was it years?) of following God’s call, he only had one convert. That new believer went on to do something amazing. There was just one problem. I couldn’t remember the man’s name, or where I saw the story. Without a name, what was left to matter for eternity?
I recently read a story that inspired me so much, I shared it with my husband. “I need to keep this handy to read again!” I thought. So as I considered writing this article on eternal significance, I came up with what I knew was a fabulous idea. I’d begin with that inspiring story I’d read. It was about a man who had some type of campus ministry (the details of which escape me right now). Anyway, through months (or was it years?) of following God’s call, he only had one convert. That new believer went on to do something amazing. He pastored a church with thousands of people (I think.) Yes, that’s the perfect story to open an article about being of eternal significance!
There was just one problem. I couldn’t remember the man’s name, or where I saw the story.
The Idea of Eternal Significance
The irony of my dilemma didn’t escape my notice. This man’s story had touched my heart. So if I considered his actions eternally significant, why couldn’t I remember his name or the details of his story? Was that dishonoring the good works he’d done? It caused me to pause and consider the idea of eternal significance, and what it really means.
I confess that I’m fascinated with stories of people doing great things for God. I’m a big believer in getting involved, serving locally, and reaching your community with a message of hope. I also love watching those features on the evening news, highlighting people making a difference. Like the woman who gives back to the homeless by serving meals on the street, or the young student raising funds for his classmate’s medical bills. They’re such a bright spot in the midst of all the bad. When I watch them, I feel encouraged, hopeful. Their stories motivate me to do more in my own little corner of the world. And I can’t help but wonder if one day someone will look back on one small interaction between us and consider it a defining moment in their life.
I think we all long for a bit of that. To be remembered after we’re gone. To have others’ lives made better by our time here on earth. But my momentary amnesia over this man’s story I stumbled across forced me to look at eternal significance in a different way. What if his significance was never the point?
Our Insignificance Points the Spotlight on Christ
God created us to serve others. And I believe that desire becomes stronger as our faith grows. When I taught junior high English, I felt good about the work I did. Pouring into the lives of children every day brought a sense of purpose. I knew God called me to the classroom. It was where He wanted me to be. It’s true that teachers feel a deep connection with their students. We worry about them, pray for them, and fight hard for them. We do our best and hope their year with us makes an impact that goes far beyond this lifetime.
Now that I’m a full-time writer, I miss those days. That’s why I get so excited when I run into former students! I love hearing about their lives and what they’ve been doing since 7th grade. Just recently I happened upon a former student at the grocery store in town. However, her reaction to seeing me was not at all what I expected.
When I saw her face, I instantly recognized her. For many kids, seventh grade is a tough time. I chose to be her cheerleader that year, encouraging her and letting her know I’d always be on her side. Yet as she passed me in the aisle at the store, she simply offered a polite smile and kept walking. No fanfare here, folks.
Honestly? I expected more, like maybe a hug or a “glad to see you!” I wondered if my encouragement had made a difference. I wanted to know I had made an impact on her life. I realized, in that brief moment at the store, I was making it all about me. Lord, forgive me.
Because the truth is, I didn’t want to know her life was forever changed because of me. I wanted to know her life was forever changed because of Jesus. And maybe by allowing myself to stay in a place of obscurity in her journey, she will remember her 7th grade year as a time when she felt God’s love like never before. By embracing my insignificance, I am allowing Jesus to have the most eternal significance of all. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
Look into the Corners of Your Life
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned my preparation for writing it - thinking of ideas and recalling stories I read. What I didn’t mention is this. I was actually right in the middle of a 5-day hospital stay at the time. A health scare landed me with emergency surgery on my hand, and I wondered if I would ever again be able to write out words that would be of eternal significance. Would I be able to type? Would medicine leave me feeling weak or unable to concentrate? As those doubts swirled in my mind, a wonderful thing happened.
I began to see many people take on ‘eternal significance’ in my life in a very real and powerful way.
The nurse who made me laugh with her funny stories, bringing much needed joy to an otherwise somber situation. She made the corners of her life matter. The 80-year-old woman from church who called, just to leave me a word of encouragement about healing. She made the corners of her life matter. The young mom who sent me her homemade, all-natural lip balm in the mail to help my chapped lips. She made the corners of her life matter.
Yes, as I look into the corners of my life, I am thankful for the many precious people who, through their own giving hearts, have chosen to let the love of Jesus show through them. They teach me the truth about significance. Their actions show me that making a difference begins with one simple word - obedience.
Obedience Makes the Difference
I didn’t want to dishonor the memory of a true hero of the faith as I wrote these words. To me, the man from the obscure story deserved to be recognized. But then I wondered today if the unnamed evangelist would have been satisfied knowing his obedience in following God shined a spotlight on Christ instead of himself. I’d like to think he would.
It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. (1 Corinthians 3:7 NLT)
We don’t have to look far to find opportunities to make an impact. In fact, we don’t need to focus on the idea of ‘making an impact’ at all. We only need to walk in obedience each day, doing what Jesus did when He was here. Love. That’s it. When we do this, we don’t have to wonder about whether our lives are going to matter the way we want them to. Instead we can simply embrace the joy of being here to be used by God for one more day. We can be thankful in our insignificance, knowing that’s the greatest place we can be.
Kristine Brown is the author of the book, Over It. Conquering Comparison to Live Out God’s Plan, and the upcoming companion devotional for teen girls. For more resources from Kristine Brown, visit her Life Enrichment Library at kristinebrown.net. You’ll find weekly encouragement to help you “become more than yourself through God’s Word” at her website.
Photo Credit: Maranatha Pizarras