Some rotten family events had happened for my friend - the kind that tempt you to lose faith in people, yourself, and God. But instead, he started going to a long-forgotten church from his childhood. I asked him, "Why did you start going to church?" He told me, "I needed more texture in my life" and by that he meant that he sensed his life was not full of much meaning, only a matter of daily duties and less than worthwhile responsibilities. And he had found new texture as he connected with God for the first time in his life. He became connected to something larger than himself.
So I started talking about the "story" God is inviting us to be a part of. "What does that mean?" he inquired. He'd never considered the idea before. I explained that in the bible, people are given the opportunity to join into the unfolding story of God in history - join with him in his plan to restore, recreate, and redeem the world. We talked about how that's still true today - each person has a role to play in a much larger tale, even if it's a small part or one we don't understand at all in our lifetimes.
He thought about that concept for awhile, and then he said something that surprised me.
"That idea makes me feel insignificant."
"Really? Insignificant? What do you mean?" I asked.
"Well, the idea that we're just here to play some minuscule little part in God's huge plan just seems ... small to me."
I have to confess that that very same idea is part of what's so compelling about following Christ for me. I already feel small. It comes naturally to me. I don't need God for that. In fact, the more I work and push and struggle to "make a difference," the more I feel like I'm not making much of a difference at all. As I push past 50, I wonder if I'll ever achieve something that's really special. Or, even more, if I'll ever be a decent person deep, deep inside.
At just that point, though, there's a whisper from God who says, "Shhh. Be still, foolish man. Remember, you're not writing the Story. I am. Stick with it. Persevere. Trust. Listen to my voice and you'll fit in the story. You do matter, though you may not see how just now."
My sense of insignificance isn't a problem to God. If there is a larger (redemption) story to tell, it isn't my job to become significant. That's God's concern. In fact, it's his promise: Though my part may be minuscule and apparently irrelevant, there is a hidden meaning to my life - and yours.
So perhaps my friend is right. Finding our place in God's story might just make us feel less important. Maybe that's where God is at last able to plug us into something good.
Jeremiah, who we'll learn about in this week's message, doesn't deal directly with these issues. But I have a feeling that he wondered if all his suffering and efforts amounted to anything. We'll learn about his struggles with God this Sunday.
Check out the song by Andrew Peterson - Fool With A Fancy Guitar.