DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

In Search of Significance

Written by: on September 21, 2020

 

She sat next to me on the park bench,

warm morning sun

shining on her face.

She shared about a funeral she attended

where story after story was told

about an old woman who

lived life large

all over the globe

producing concentric circles of influence.

 

My friend said she wanted a life like that.

I asked, A life like what?

One of significance, she said.

Tears welled up

in both our eyes.

 

Isn’t that the fear that drives all fears?

The fear that prompted that first bite

so long ago?

The fear that undermines our motives,

daily interactions,

and haunts us on our death bed?

That fear that says being human is

Not

Quite

Enough,

where enough looks like significance,

and significance looks like being God?

 

You know, that glittering god

of perfection and holiness,

that we strive tirelessly to grasp,

as we meticulously check off the shoulds and musts,[1]

buying into the hype,

becoming a commodity

of the neo-liberalist machine called the Good Life,[2]

and thus, the antithesis of human,

or more simply,

and increasingly,

un-human,

whose fear driven endeavors

disintegrate into dust along with our

fleshly remains.

 

But what if significance is found in the small,

the still,

the silence?

 

What if significance

is seen in the baby that never takes a breath

but whose mother’s breath held it

in her womb?

Or in the children who care for loved ones

working long hours for little pay?

Or in the widow who walks alone, eats crumbs,

but gives generously to the overworked children?

And in the man, a bed ridden mute

who exists in space and time,

wondering if there’s more than this place

and these people whom he’s dependent

upon for all things?

What of humans whom the world will never know,

names only spoken in the most minuscule of concentric circles,

mere pebbles dropped in shallow puddles

that eventually dry under the

glaring afternoon sun?

 

Does our significance not come from

our simple act of breathing,

where each exhale leads to dependance

and each inhale gives Life?[3]

 

How might our world look

if we stopped

fighting for that perfect inhale

in order to drive the Good Life machine forward,

and instead

allowed our bodies

to effortlessly exhale to the point

where nothing is left

but our anticipation of being filled

with Grace,

upon Grace,

upon Grace,

which transforms

us into the beautifully significant humans

we were created to be.

 

 

[1] Diana Renner and Steven D’Souza. Not Doing: The Art of Effortless Action. (London, UK: LID Publishing, Ltd, 2018) 108.

[2] Ibid., 97-98.

[3] Jer Swigart. 2020. “Inhale and Exhale…Which comes first and Why it Matters.” DMINLGP blog. Accessed September 20, 2020. https://blogs.georgefox.edu/dminlgp/inhale-or-exhale-which-comes-first-why-it-matters/.

About the Author

mm

Darcy Hansen

12 responses to “In Search of Significance”

  1. mm Dylan Branson says:

    There is something to be said about leaving a legacy. Over the summer, I watched through quite a few pseudo-historical dramas (they became a guilty quarantine pleasure haha). But one thing continued to thread through each story. Whether it was pirates, medieval knights, vikings, Western gunslingers, or frontiersmen, there was always this element of wanting to forge a legacy that would speak to generations once they were gone. We want to build because we’re afraid we’re going to be forgotten. We ask ourselves, “What does this life matter if I don’t leave SOMETHING behind?”

    But the truth is we don’t need to do great and mighty things. Every small thing we do has an effect on someone down the line. We often don’t know who we are influencing or the difference we’re making in those around us. One of the first lessons my professors in undergrad taught us was that in ministry, you have to be okay with not seeing the fruits of your labor.

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      Dylan,
      Agreed. We do want to leave a legacy. In my end-of-life studies, I’ve read numerous times that as we near death, our greatest fear is not pain, for that can be managed. rather it is that we will be forgotten. And the reality is, in time, this will happen, as generations pass. On a cognitive level, no one will remember, but on a subconscious and genetic level, our presence remains.

      I’d asked my friend for permission to share her story in this post. She giggled and noted how the woman she referenced is still significant, influencing the lives of others (her, myself, and any who read this post) even though she died. Her legacy lives on, though we do not know her name.

  2. mm Greg Reich says:

    Darcy,
    I think the apostle Paul lays the idea of insignificance to rest when he unfolds the importance of all the parts of the body in 1 Corinthians 12. His statement in verse 22 after explaining that it is unfair to say to a part of the body that they are not needed. “On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.” Paul goes onto state that if one member of the body suffers we all suffer.

    Attending a large mega church can show just how disconnected people are from the body. People can be hurting and suffering and in many cases very few people ever know.

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      Greg,
      While I agree with your summation of Paul’s teaching about the Body, I’d push back on the reality of that being lived out in people’s lives. As you noted, the disconnect is often vast within the Body. As hierarchal humans, we like to give more significance to some more than others- this is especially true in our churches. Sadly then, people’s fear of insignificance is only reinforced through their church (and societial) experiences. Until we begin to grasp the beauty and significance of the Imago Dei in ourselves and others, the struggle will remain.

      • mm Greg Reich says:

        Darcy,
        I appreciate your response. There are volumes of debates between biblical scholars and theologians on what Imago Dei entails, as well as, what the effects the fall of man had on the image of God in humanity. I am not sure the issue is knowledge especially when there is so many opinions.

        I wonder if there is a difference in being in the church and being part of the body of Christ? At one time they may have been one in the same, I am not so sure they are today. Personally, I have to remind myself that we as christians are broken earthen vessels and we leak on a regular basis. This doesn’t excuse the travesties we see in the church but for me it shows how they can happen. I believe we can do better but on this side of Christs return sin will always be a major factor in humanity that science, politics, knowledge and intellect can not fix.

        • mm Darcy Hansen says:

          Greg,
          I appreciate your follow up question. I think more and more, many know they are part of the Body, yet no longer are willing to be part of a church. They are finding Church in other places, serving in other ways- being Church and Body instead of going to church and being ignored as a part of the Body. How do we bridge that gap? That’s a question for the generations.

  3. mm John McLarty says:

    Significance is one of the descriptors that show up on my “strengthfinders” profile. On the one hand, this “strength” has allowed me to stay laser-focused on the big things I want to accomplished. However, more and more, it feels like a burden instead of a gift. The quest for “significance” has come at the expense of noticing and appreciating the smaller things as you skillfully unpacked in your post.

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      John,
      Often our strengths can also become our weaknesses. Laser focus is needed to shepherd congregations. As you grow in wisdom and maturity, the latter will come, as you slow and begin to notice the small and simple. It’s a different kind of “significance.” My desire to have significance and purpose has been so heavy over the past year, I finally asked to be released of the desire- that God would take it away. The removal hasn’t happened, but a refining and redefining is happening. I hope I’m able to lead from that space of quiet noticing instead of the one I previously had that longed for position and platform.

  4. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    I’m making the jump from a life of significance to the semi-recent phenomenon of Christian fame and its impact on the parish pastor, or local spiritual formation coach. Before, while someone would visit a John Wesley as he made his way around the country, week in and week out, they would respectfully and graciously sit under the teachings of the parish pastor. Now, with the Internet, the best of the best is available and puts outstanding pressure and unrealistic expectations for the local, the small, the “ordinary.”

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      Shawn,
      Agreed. And even the small parish pastor is expected to be everything to everyone. I applied for a pastor position at a small Friends church. The job description was unreal. Basically they wanted the pastor to do the work of the church, rather than the church being the church. The have dreams of significant “growth” and “community impact.” Whenever I preach for them, what I actually love most is that they are all of 15 people who are deeply committed to Jesus and caring well for each other and others in their circles of influence. From the outside, many would say they are a dying church. But from the inside, they are a vibrant faith community. Small. Simple. Good.

  5. mm Chris Pollock says:

    Wonderful, Darcy.

    I’d like to share this with my daughter. Popularity is big and there’s pressure to it from the get-go.

    Disappointment for falling out of the in-crowd. Not being accepted for who you are.

    And, there’s an illusion that people can buy into and, then become so disillusioned by. Trying so hard to be someone else then, ‘safe enough’ to be who they are then, not safe…and, left cold.

    There’s a narcissism and it’s ugly. Do you see a narcissism in the midst of the struggle? One that fuels the oppression, one that enslaves and entangles, distracts and dupes; the nice and kind and vulnerable seem to be good targets.

    It’s a subversive, psychological thing that seems to play out, in every arena, from early on in life?

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      Chris,
      I think social media fuels so much of what you are sharing here. I saw all of the above with my daughter when she turned 13 and got a phone. I think she still struggles with trying to fit in and the narcissism that comes with the times. The conversations about her being enough are consistent. My son has weathered the social storm a bit better. Boys are just different, it seems. Praying for you and your MP- it really is a struggle to simply rest in the reality that simply existing IS significance.

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