I have a confession. Actually, it’s been awhile since I’ve given a formal confession. Back in my days as a good Catholic growing up I would be in the confessional for the weekly list of my “sins du jour”. I never really was a good Catholic, but my mother was and she “inspired” me to make the Saturday visits with the priest so that I could stay in good standing with whoever it was that I needed to be in good standing with. I never really thought that it was God keeping score. In fact I’m pretty sure that He nodded off and sent in a designated confession angel after about my third trip when it was apparent that I only really knew of a few things that constituted sin and I repeated them with great regularity. They usually had something to do with calling my sister names. I’ve been accused many times of being boring, predictable, and scheduled. I am. I’m sure that in those days my priest would have agreed. I secretly imagine that just once in my relationship with him he would have loved for me to confess to shoplifting or even a hidden stash of “Playboy’s”. I believe that it’s true that all of us are made up of parts of God’s image. I just may be that part of His image that He’d not always want remembered….kind of like those pages in Leviticus, necessary but not really inspiring. My own children serve that end for me from time to time. They can seemingly magnify the qualities in me that are real and true but I’d rather forget. Anyway, back to my confession.
I want to be significant. There I said it….or at least I wrote it. It’s a desire as old as creation. I even have a book called The Search For Significance. After reading it and not really feeling any more significant I bought the extended, revised, study edition. Still nothing. The overwhelming desire for significance is what I feel is the root of original sin. I get that from my Catholic upbringing as well. Oh sure I can piously pontificate on occasion that I don’t care what people think of me. And in short spurts I can actually live that way, but truthfully…after all we are confessing here, it only comes in short bursts. It’s not unlike swimming against the current. As long as I’m fighting and swimming and sweating, I’m making a bit of headway or at least staying still. When I relax, I’m again swept away by my search for significance. Searching for significance has taken on various implications depending on life stage for me. When I was a child I was greatly fashion challenged. I still am and it causes me great stress which has enough background for its own confessional. So I looked for it in grades and awards. They were a lifeline for me and a source of sustenance. College brought its own challenges that grades really didn’t satisfy, so on to the next stage comprised of my two best friends at the time, rum and Coke. Then it was career, advancement, security and when I came to the end of that line, the Holy Grail of spiritual significance….ministry. All through my search I walked alongside my faith. I took part in it and acknowledged it from time to time, but I hadn’t yet ingested it. In the midst of despair and close to a very successful crash, and I believe that there is such a thing, God whispered a hope that I could affect people lives. Certainly there could be no other prize greater than this for a significance junkie touched by the Spirit.
I’m confessing this as a warning to others who may feel that same hunger and feel justification for obsession based on faith motives. It is still obsession and it can still be destructive. Destructive behavior with good intentions is still destructive. I’m not saying that I’m in a destructive mode, but I could be and many I know in my profession are.
In a reflective mode I confess now as I evaluate my life that a noble cause has, more often than I want to admit, been fueled by the same search for significance that first launched us out of the Garden.
Now don’t take this too far out of context. Most of this you’d never notice if you knew me and walked with me through life. Most of it doesn’t manifest itself in obvious ways or anti-social behavior. Most of it you might not notice, I think anyway, because you are probably in your own similar pursuit. My faith tells me that my significance is because I’m a child of the King. I know that. My faith tells me that I have been set free. I know that. My faith tells me that God works all things for good on behalf of those who hold on to Him. I know that too. But the whisper is there. I have wanted to write a book, but I haven’t yet because I’m not sure of the motives. I’ve enjoyed my role as preacher and teacher, but I’m no longer sure of the motives. My life has been energized by serving those in trauma and suffering, but even within that, when things are quiet and the whisperer comes, I question my motivation. The irony is that so much of my life is based on fighting with the very thing that God has granted me and wants me to feel, which is a sense of significance.
I’d love to share a solution. I’d love to wrap this up like one of my favorite “Seinfeld” episodes. I ought to be able to. I am a Pastor and all. That’s the significance thing, solutions to every life difficulty. I could tell you that you have significance in God’s grace. I could tell you that you have freedom through Christ’s sacrifice. I could tell you that there is hope because of His defeating death. I could tell you chapter and verse and the great eternal story. All of this is undeniably true, but all I have at the moment is confession.