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The Significance of Insignificance


The Significance of Insignificance

Written by Sarah Vanek.


We're drilled as children. As teenagers. As college students. As adults. And It’s always the same question—albeit different forms to match the occasion. You know it most simply as this:

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

If you’re an indecisive person plagued with a starving need for purpose and meaning, this question likely haunts you, or at least has at some point. Perhaps you ask it every day as you hunt constantly for the answer, though it always seems to elude you.

I’ll confess right now to being one of these haunted people. For years, I’ve asked myself what I want to do with my life. And sometimes, I come up with a solid answer, simply because it feels good to have one. It’s nice to have something to say to everyone who asks. And frankly, it’s nice to have something to say to myself when I ask.

But as I sift through my heart, I’ve found that my true answer is vague—often more vague than I’d like it to be. I can’t put a name to it, but I know it when I see it. I see it in my mind’s eye when I remember the night someone took time to listen with eagerness to my crying heart. I see it as I look back on the many times someone stayed up late just to talk to me and answer my constant flow of questions about life and faith. I see it when I recollect a moment when someone saw straight through the façade I’d kept up for years—straight to the heart underneath that was always trying to be good enough.

That’s it. I want to create those moments for someone else. I want to be the someone who will listen with eagerness. The someone who will stay up late into the night answering questions and giving advice. I want to be the someone who sees through the façades to the starving hearts searching desperately for worth.

It sounds glorious, doesn’t it? Sounds significant—life changing.

But the reality that’s hit me lately is simply that it’s not. It’s not glorious at all. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s awful. Because those memories are birthed out of sacrifice. And sacrifice hurts.

You see, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to treasure any of those memories if the someones in my life hadn’t chosen to give up their time, their sleep, and their pride to offer something to me. Put another way, the moments that are the most significant to me—the ones that bring tears to my eyes when I remember them—are all because someone else was willing to be insignificant. Because someone else was willing to take a temporary position at a tiny church in the middle of nowhere, and serve my heart there. Because someone else pushed aside work that needed to be done just to ask me about my life, when there was nothing in it for them. Because someone else opened up their home and ministered to my heart, when there was no one around to praise the incredible impact they were making.

These are real stories from my life—real moments with real people. But it would be wrong of me to sit here and give them glory for how they have stepped willingly into painful insignificance for me without pointing to the ultimate act of insignificance. So, let’s ponder it together, you and I.

Over 2,000 years ago now, the God of the Universe descended to our level. He was born, not in a palace, but in a stable. Not to wealthy parents, but to a teenage girl and a carpenter. He grew up working, spending the majority of His life as a carpenter, Himself. And then, at His human prime, He poured His life and all of His time into the people no one else would touch or take a second look at. He chose a rag-tag bunch of young people—among them, fishermen and despised tax-collectors—to carry out His work. Because—let us not forget—He came to die. And when the time came, a carpenter turned Rabbi was belittled into insignificance by the very people who should have caught onto His true identity first. He was brought lower than we can imagine. And, with the dried remnants of someone else’s sticky spit on His face, thorn punctures in His scalp, deep bruises, mangled flesh, and shaking muscles, amidst layers of caked blood, sweat and dust, He drug a piece of wood to the top of a rocky hill. A hill He created.

And there, His nerves were crushed by nails, sending unbelievable pain up his arms as He was hung on a tree. His shoulders, pulled out of joint. His mangled back scratched repeatedly as He had to push up on nailed feet, ripping through the flesh just to breathe. And breathe for what? So that He could say: “Father, forgive them.”

That’s the Savior of the world right there. The personal Savior of you and I, if we choose to accept Him. The most significant Person ever to live, made the most insignificant one for us.

Arguably, what seemed to be an insignificant moment in history at the time, turned out to be the most significant of all time. And that rag-tag bunch of young adults went on to do seemingly insignificant things. They planted churches. Wrote letters to encourage others. And, eventually died brutal deaths. Yet, the significance of what they did lasts to this day, over two thousand years later.

So, don’t underestimate the power of insignificance, my friends. Because, if you look closely, I think you’ll find that life is found in losing it. Joy is found in sacrifice. And significance is found in insignificance.

Don’t believe me? Take Jesus’ Word for it.

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” – Matthew 16:25

Don’t spend your life searching for significance. If you do, you’re sure to miss it. Instead, step into painful insignificance with joy. Those moments just might be the most significant of all.


Photo by Jenna Hamra from Pexels