This is the one that I come back to the most. Of all the resources that I got to be part of at desiringGod.org, whether written or edited or co-produced, this is the piece that I’ve reread and re-ruminated on more than any other over the past year. It’s not because I think it’s good, but because it feels crushingly relevant. It brings me back to reality, to the simple, beautiful reality of belonging to God, by grace. You can check it out at DG, or read the whole thing below.
We live in the land of dreamers.
You’ve seen this before: The biggest impact, as the spiel goes, comes from the biggest dreams, and therefore, if you want your life to really count, you need to broaden the horizons in your mind. Our deficiencies are mainly in our expectations, not our competencies. Think bigger. Invest your best in what yields the maximum payoff. And then, if really true to form, there will come a string of words like “greatness,” “leadership,” and “influence” — all focused on you and the good you could be doing.
When it’s sincere and given the right qualifications, big-dream messages like this are wonderfully inspiring. We shouldn’t shun the practical wisdom of good old-fashioned industry; we should seek to listen, to learn, to grow. And at the same time, when advice like this is at its worst, and when we are at our most naïve, we’ll digest faux-Christian precepts as if they were Scripture and mistake the favor of God to be in all that’s new and flashy. Implicit in it all — if our hearts are dark enough to hear it (and they are) — is not so much an encouragement that we strive to make the world a better place, but that we strive to be rock stars. That’s the Kool-Aid. That’s the dark side.
And if we’re not careful, we’ll think that God mainly cares about us gaining followers and doing action, that mainly he just doesn’t want you to sell yourself short, or waste your energy on low-impact drivel. We’ll think that God’s real blessing is found in our giftedness, in what we’re able to build and where we’re able to go.
But that’s not true.
Getting to the Great
Undeniably, God wants us to do great things in his name, except it really matters how we define “great,” and what we’re actually looking for in it.
“Great” probably isn’t as glorious as you imagine, and rest assured, you won’t be the more blessed having arrived there. In fact, for those men who want to change the world, what you might need most is a wife who wants you home for dinner.
Somewhere in the stuff like that is where you’ll find God’s blessing.
Like in an infant whose diaper needs changing, and a toddler who lives for your attention — a toddler, not an audience. The real blessing isn’t found behind shiny platforms, but in the garbage bag that must be taken out, the one that has a little hole in the bottom, that leaks a trail of some unidentified substance from the kitchen to the front door, demanding an extra five minutes of your time to retrace your steps on hands and knees with a paper towel, wiping up the mess, leaving the living room a better place.
There is God’s favor, there in the mundane, when we’re stuck between two worlds, seated with Jesus in the heavenly places and bent down here cleaning floors. There is where God smiles on his children.
When You Know
The greatest blessings in life aren’t found in being a great leader, or a great communicator, or a great pastor. The greatest blessings are found in being human before the face of God — a human forgiven and righteous in Christ. Didn’t he say that to us? “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
This kind of blessing is much more quiet than the glitz we think we crave, indeed so quiet that we usually miss it, and we’d only long for it if it were gone. It’s the deep blessing that too easily evades us, the blessing that knows what it feels like to be woken up before sunrise by the sounds of a summer thunderstorm — thunder so loud that it makes you stretch your hand over your heart to feel how fast it’s beating, and then look beside you at a woman more precious than jewels, and then hear, from the doorway of your bedroom, in the froggy voice of a frightened four-year-old, “Daddy, I’m scale’wd.” So you pull back the covers and let him listen to the thunder with you for a while, thinking, as he buries his head in the pillow, here is a soul — a soul! God, make him a great man.
And you know in that moment that the greatness you’re asking for is some semblance of the emotion you feel right then. No one else might get it, but you know. Here, where you never expected it, here is greatness, here is leadership, here is influence.
Then you whisper, praying in this land of dreamers: Bless him like this.