Significance

When we talk about significance, we can either be talking about people or things. While I want to focus on being a significant person, let’s just look at a thing that is significant. A statistic can be significant: it leads to a conclusion of some sort. A fact can be significant: it changes how we think of something (such as the significance of a political party being elected or of nuclear power). It’s a word that we think we know what it means, but you have to really work hard to nail it down. It talks about being important, and carrying meaning in some sort of way. Here’s the thing that really got me: a significant thing is not important in its own right, it’s only importance is in what it leads to. A significant fact is only significant because of the repercussions that it causes.

In our world, we talk about wanting to live a life of significance, but I don’t think we stop and think about that enough. We often like the sound of doing great things for God because it elevates us above others in a spiritual sounding way. Many people are enamoured by the thought of thousands of people listening to them preach. But that’s celebrity, not significance. The thought that’s been on my mind is that the essence of significance is servanthood. A significant person is remembered for what they gave, a memory that may well outlast them. Celebrity comes and goes, but when someone sows into you, or gives you exactly what you need at the point where you need it. You are a significant person when you throw yourself into giving what you’ve got (both material and what’s inside you) to those around you. You cannot label yourself a significant person – only those around you can decide that.

What does this look like on a practical level? It’s a choice in the little things: on a Saturday afternoon, do you choose to stay home and watch movies, or do you go and help a friend’s mum renovate her house. One sounds more relaxing, but it keeps you in your own selfish little world. Three months from now, no-one will care (including yourself!) that you stayed home and did your own thing. But you will be remembered for taking what you had and giving it away.

Linger

There comes a time when life changes. It may be sudden, it may be something you saw coming a mile off. A change in employment, living circumstance, friendship… Dealing with change takes focus and energy, something you don’t always have to spare. The future is unknown – nothing is certain, nothing can be relied upon. The past is done – nothing can change it, as much as we might want to.

And so we linger. We hold back around the memory of what has been, as we gather our strength to process this change. We linger, trying to keep the known from passing into the realm of memory too quickly. We trust that which is known and hate to let it slip through our fingers. Yet we know we must. The past must not limit our ability to embrace the future; to transition into that which is unknown. It is the only way we grow, the only way we move forward; yet it is the road less traveled.

As we linger, we make the decision: to let the past become a fond memory or a stumbling block in the way of moving forward.

A vision worth following

I have experienced in my own life and seen in others that submitting to another’s vision can be difficult. To give up your own ambition and desire for the future and submit to someone else’s vision, direction and authority is a sacrifice. Why would anyone in their right mind do it? What would possibly make such a sacrifice worthwhile?

The problem I see is that many people have huge dreams and huge vision for their lives. Many of these are based in fantasy and have little chance of coming to pass, but the dream is still a future reality in the imagination of the dreamer. Leaders, acting in practical wisdom, communicate a corporate vision that is attainable and based in reality. The unfortunate thing is that this corporate vision seems pale and insignificant in comparison to the individual’s fantasy. And when the two conflict, it is too much to sacrifice the fantasy for the vision.

As leaders, what then constitutes a vision worth following? I am a part of a church where I have very little hesitation to put my own vision aside in order to be a part of the church’s vision. This is because the church’s vision is so much greater than my own vision. I recognise that through this vision, more will be accomplished, more people will be helped and more of a lasting impact will be sustained than through my vision.

A vision worth following is one larger than that of the individual: one that capitalises on the power of working as a team, one that is based in reality but has room to explode, and one that will leave a significant impact on the world when the individuals involved are long forgotten. That is a vision worth following. That is a vision worth sacrificing my own agenda for. That which better utilises my gifts and makes me more effective in the here and now – the choice is already made!

Spark of Chivalry

It is no accident that a thought on chivalry would be raised in the Valentine’s season. I have made many observations and asked many questions. Here is something of what I have discovered…

In my world, chivalry is being defined by the women. And it is often defined in negative terms: they wistfully define chivalry as being something that is dead, or at very least by what they do not see/experience from the men in their lives. The bell continually tolls to signify and mourn the death of chivalry. My thought here is that chivalry, or gallantry, is not lost or dead and does not need to be resurrected. It is a seed, or a spark, that exists in all men. Some men exhibit it naturally, others have to search for it, others require someone else to help them draw it out.

The dictionaries use many words to define chivalry: courtesy, generosity, military strength and valour. I would be so bold as to summarise it as meekness and humility, qualities that Jesus happened to specialise in: the possession of strength and power, tempered by the choice of restraint or specific focus. I can’t help but notice that while these things all appear to to learned behaviour, they all stem back to identity: who you ARE. A man can act in a courteous manner, or courtesy can be a defining characteristic of his character. Behaviour of this nature cannot flow out of weakness in an attempt to compensate or cover a lack: it must flow out of an abundance of strength, consistent with and representative of one’s character. Yes, this does exist in every man, but it must be given the chance to become more than a spark.

Guys, chivalry is not about what you do: how you open the door for a lady, consider her needs, are sensitive to her feelings, offering your strength when she needs it. These things are all great things to do, but if they are just actions, they mean nothing. Any sleazebag or serial rapist can come across as being considerate, understanding, protective… Any man can act in a chivalrous manner towards a lady that he likes: it’s wired into who we are – do whatever it takes to get the girl! The test of chivalry is to see how you treat the other women in your life. Your mother, your sisters (both natural and ‘adopted’), your friends, even the cleaning staff or checkout operator at the supermarket? Do you ‘spend’ your strength on those?

Girls, if you’re just looking out for roses or chocolates this Valentine’s Day, please wake up and realise what it’s all about. I refuse to buy into this nonsense of buying something for someone just because the calendar instructs me to. Valentine’s Day is a day for lovers in our culture, but has also been an excuse for all women to be the beneficiaries of chivalrous acts. I wish to be generous in all that I do, giving liberally from all the strength and resource I have, but the expectation of that robs it of its wonder. Chivalry is a gift – something you can desire, but not something you can take for granted. Ladies, please give the men in your world space to shine. Expectations and fear of misunderstood intentions extinguish the spark of chivalry that exists in every man.

Homesick

How can you be homesick for somewhere you’ve never lived, and have only ever visited briefly??