The small group study at our church recently undertook the question of significance. Within a larger topic, the lesson addressed the question of individual significance. An illustration in this particular lesson was a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip in which Calvin screams into the night sky, “I’m significant!” In a later panel, he whispers, “Screamed the dust speck.”
It would seem obvious that individuals are insignificant when it comes to God and the universe. Yet, in a room full of believers, many whose walk began decades ago, the idea that they might not be significant was hard to swallow.
Their reluctance to recognize and acknowledge their lack of significance is understandable. Men and women have been seeking significance since the beginning. Adam and Eve were tempted by the idea of significance. The serpent in the Garden told them, they would be like God if they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. What could be more significant than that?
In the modern world, the quest for significance takes on many guises. People try to achieve significance through their jobs. They seek significance through their families. They seek significance through academic degrees. They seek significance by writing and attempting to influence the thoughts of others. They seek significance through their possessions. They even seek significance through their stature in their church.
The desire to feel significant seems to be part of our nature. A person does not want to feel like a speck of dust. He or she does not want to be invisible to those around them. People want to be noticed and acknowledged by others. Whether that is the way God created us, or the way we became after eating the forbidden fruit, it is the way we are.
The need to feel significant may not be a sin. Yet, it can become a sin if we begin to worship at the altar of significance or feel that we are significant in our own right. We begin to feel we are special, and we begin to lose sight of what our role is in God’s creation.
The discussion during this segment of the evening’s study was interesting to say the least. People felt they were significant for various reasons. They believed their connection with God made them significant, or the works they have done in His name made them significant. They believed they were significant because God answered their prayers.
The discussion was also somewhat surreal. It was a conversation between people who profess to be Christians. They profess to be believers. They profess to love and trust God. Yet, the same reasoning and rationalization could be overheard in a group of nonbelievers just as easily. The only differences would be the specific reasons for significance.
In the bible study discussion, the people claiming significance felt it was in some way conferred upon them by God. In the secular setting the claim would be significance came from the individual’s accomplishments or their inherent self-worth.
Surrealism aside, the reluctance of people who consider themselves believers to understand the question of significance was disappointing. They were in effect falling for the same lies the serpent told Adam and Eve. They believed there was something they could do to make themselves significant, or they believed God made them significant by His actions toward them. Either way, they were, to some degree, wanting to equate themselves with God.
The truth of the matter is simple. As the little comic strip from Calvin and Hobbes so clearly put it, we are specks of dust crying out for significance. We want to feel significant. We want the universe or the world to notice us. However, compared to the universe, we are a speck of dust. Compared to God, who created the universe, we are smaller still.
Happily, our lack of significance, as we choose to understand it, does not mean we are insignificant. We may be specks of dust, but God knows us. He knew us before we were born. He knows the number of the hairs on our heads. He knows us intimately.
We are insignificant, compared to God, in every way one can imagine. That does not mean we are not significant to Him. We just need to quit worrying about our significance and concentrate on His significance.
© S. E. Jackson, 2012