I’m a preacher’s kid—not just some preacher from some church on some corner somewhere, but a preacher and church that is literally known around the globe. And when I was a wee one, I had a knack for making sure other people knew it. My life-long childhood friends tell me that whenever I wanted to assert some type of authority or control, I was quick to remind them who my dad was. (How obnoxious of me. I’m surprised I still have any friends at all after those annoying young years.)
And while I’d like to think I’ve been humbled these decades later, I know what it means to form one’s identity and significance from facts on a bio sketch. I’ve always known that a big part of who I am comes from my deep legacy of family and faith, and I’m sincerely grateful for it. But the temptation for me now could easily be to consider myself covered, to think I can always ride in air-conditioned comfort underneath the built-in structure of reputation an connections.
And yet the story God is writing with my life—the mark He wants me to make on this generation and the next—cannot be based solely on information found on my birth certificate or my lifelong membership status in the church where my father serves. The people I love are doing the work God has assigned to them—and doing it with great humility and faithfulness, producing harvest after harvest of spiritual fruit. But my mark must be mine. Built on the past but also uniquely my own in the present and future.
Perhaps you can relate to that. You’ve been trying to stake your claim to significance on a list of accomplishments and attributes boasted on your résumé, a docket of background facts and figures—who you are, where you’re from, what you do for a living, the success you’ve been having, the family you’ve been raising. These are all good things. Blessings worth celebrating. But if you force these line items of life to bear the weight of your personal value, you’ll be rudely disappointed at many points along the way. They are not built to carry that load. Stray bullet points do not ascribe worth and significance to us all by themselves.
Perhaps, on the other hand, your issue is not with an overinflated sense of entitlement but rather a history of shame and sensitivity to what your background information contains. Maybe, like me in certain seasons of life, you’re not proud of the people you’ve associated with or the places you’ve been. Maybe you’ve not achieved as much as you’d like or at the level of those around you. From where you sit today, you don’t see how your life could tell any other story than that of failure, lost opportunities, and the bitter results of not getting the breaks.
Or maybe you just feel ordinary. With a Jonah-like résumé. Uneventful. Kind of like the way I enjoy my yogurt . . . plain vanilla without any of the crunchy, colorful toppings. No huge successes. No huge flame-outs. Just one average day after another, with not much to tell on the other side.
But none of this really matters in the long run. Thank God, it neither exempts you nor disqualifies you from finding real significance the only way it can be found—by yielding, submitting, and fully surrendering to God’s purposes. It’s the same for everybody. Complete satisfaction and success in life cannot be reached apart from your deliberate decision to engage in the divine intervention and surrender to His sovereign plans for you, whatever He chooses those plans to be.
Because, see, we’re not here to tell our story. We’re here to tell God’s story. And none of us are too good, too cultured, too Christianized, or too impressive for Him to thread any plotline He desires through our lives, even if that plotline has a destination like Nineveh in it. God maintains just as much right to throw curves into my life as He does into anybody else’s, no matter who my parents are or what church I go to. By the same token, none of us are too weak, too disadvantaged, too invisible, or too unimportant for Him to speak something of great, eternal value through our experiences. Neither our legacy nor the lack thereof determines our self-worth and significance. It is God’s calling and our willingness to obey. That’s it.
Excerpts taken from Life Interrupted by Priscilla Shirer. ©2011 B&H Publishing Group. Used by permission.