Many of us, especially in “First World” societies, devote a considerable amount of time, money, and energy to discover and maintain some reason to be on this planet. In fact, a few years ago, California state legislator, John Vasconcellos, put together a task force to promote self-esteem (a feeling of significance) for the school children of California.
While that sounds like a really great idea, in actual practice what has happened is that people who work with children (guilty) have promoted self-esteem based on pretty much nothing – in sports, everybody gets a trophy, just for showing up; in the classroom, teachers aren’t to use red pens to grade papers because that might cause a student to feel bad, etc.
Over the years, we’ve found that this artificial significance has often harmed rather than helped students because in the real world there are people who win and people who lose, and there are right answers and wrong answers. And when faced with those realities, many who have grown up during the self-esteem experiment find the world an extremely harsh place and become frustrated and disillusioned.
On the other hand, students of generations before the self-esteem movement were taught that their significance lay completely in their abilities and achievements – getting good grades, going to the right schools, or getting the best jobs. Many of these folks also ended up frustrated and disillusioned.
Leonard Woolf, an author, publisher and literary editor, said in an article in Wireless Age,
“I see clearly that I have achieved practically nothing. The world today and the history of the human anthill during the past five to seven years would be exactly the same if I had played Ping-Pong instead of sitting on committees and writing books and memoranda. I have therefore to make a rather ignominious confession that I have in a long life ground through between 150,000 and 200,000 hours of perfectly useless work.”1
So where does our significance, our worth come from? Society, as a whole, continues to struggle with that question. I think I might know at least a small part of the answer. I believe that when the theory of evolution became the primary explanation for our existence, there was no longer any particular reason for humans to be on this planet and so we had to start manufacturing grounds for significance. If we are just one more species of animal, why are we here, as opposed to any other species? Yet no other animal seems to feel the need of a purpose the way humans do.
On the other hand, if we were specifically created to be companions of God, then our search for significance is over! Manyh of us may have seen the movie, Toy Story. Pretty early in the movie, Buzz Lightyear, a toy astronaut, is convinced that he’s a real astronaut and space hero. Meanwhile, Woody, a toy cowboy, tries to convince him that he’s just a toy.
Buzz, trying to prove that he’s real, tries to fly. When he fails he dejectedly admits that he’s “just a stupid, little, insignificant toy.”
In an effort to cheer Buzz up, Woody says, “Look, over in that house, there’s a kid who thinks you’re the greatest, and it’s not because you’re a space ranger; it’s because you’re his.”
If our significance is based on who we are rather than whose we are, we will probably have, at some point, a crisis as to our place and purpose in this world. Mark Hall of the Christian group, Casting Crowns, has written a song called, “Who Am I,” that talks about where we can find our significance.
Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart
Not because of who I am
But because of what You’ve done
Not because of what I’ve done
But because of who You are
I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
Vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I’m calling
Lord, You catch me when I’m falling
And You’ve told me who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours
Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love and watch me rise again
Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me
I am Yours
Whom shall I fear
Whom shall I fear
‘Cause I am Yours
I am Yours2
“Though you are one of the teeming millions in this world, and though the world would have you believe that you do not count and that you are but a speck in the mass, God says, ‘I know you.’”3
Isn’t that amazing? God knows me. God knows each of us, individually and personally. He knows our wants, our heartbreaks, what makes us laugh … He made each of us to fill a specific place in His kingdom, and if we’re not there, He will miss us.
We don’t need to struggle with our self-esteem, our purpose in life, or our significance in the grand scheme of things. We just need to remember that we are God’s children, His treasures. He wants to spend eternity with each and every one of us.
“For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him.” John 3:16-17 AMP