Striving for Significance

As a single woman, one of the great struggles I have encountered is feeling insignificant. I sense that this is something of a universal struggle, that sends people into bad relationships, and “alternative” lifestyles. But I don’t have any data on that, and I’m not an expert in psychology. What I do know is the struggle of the Christian woman who is over twenty-eight years old and is still single. When you think about the phrase “significant other,” it says a lot about what is missing when you don’t have one. We all want there to be a person in our lives who cares about even our smallest day-to-day struggles; we also want there to be someone standing beside us when we fight the bigger battles of life. Ultimately, we want someone to see value in us.

Last week I wrote about my struggle with talkativeness; it was in evaluating the reasons I say the things I do, that I first realized that I was striving to be significant. I wanted to be noticed, appreciated, and distinguished. I still struggle with wanting to feel that I am important to people. I think this is why one of the most rewarding parts of my life has been being an aunt to my two nephews. When my elder nephew was little, I lived on the other side of the country, and I only saw him a few times a year. Yet he loved me and treated me like I was his favorite person. I was his superhero in a Coast Guard uniform. This is the kind of love that often feels so lacking in the life of a single person: love that allows someone to think you’re the greatest, in spite of your faults and failures.

Eleven years ago, God sent my sister and brother-in-law, with my beloved boys, to a different state. Taking away regular interaction with two boys who thought the world of me (they are old enough to know better, now!), caused me to feel the need for God more. It is only in seeking God that we can realize how insignificant we really are, and yet how special, chosen, and loved we are.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.

Psalms 8:3-5

Within the church, there is not a lot to point an older-than-average single person in the right direction. The emphasis on marriage and family, and the lack of any lasting group of people in the same “life stage,” can be discouraging. Each of us wants to feel like we belong. But often as a single person, there is nowhere in a church that you really fit in. Smaller churches can be better because there aren’t enough people to start dividing everyone up into life-stage categories. Yet, if you live in a populated and well-churched community, like I do, even the small churches are big compared to the rural church I grew up in. It is easy to feel lost and left out; sometimes you can feel downright invisible.

Being single can be particularly damaging to one’s pride, so we look for ways to try to build ourselves back up. Christians need to be careful to not seek significance from the wrong things or the wrong relationships. We have a tendency to seek out the wrong poeple, while avoiding the people who might most be able to relate to us because we are afraid to see ourselves in them. Within the church, we can find ourselves fighting for a place in ministry because we want to be needed, not because we feel the call to serve in a certain area. We all, to some extent, want others to give us credit for being the person we would like to be, instead of seeing us as the person we actually are. It is our pride at work.

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:3-4

I never looked specifically to find a sense of significance in my relationship with God. Rather, I came to a point when I sought God’s help for my grief over being single. As I studied the Scripture, and got to know my Savior better, I needed the acceptance of people a little less. I know that I still have a long way to go. The desire for love and acceptance is woven into our human nature. Being human, we look to other humans for this, even though a more perfect form of it is available from God. Identifying this problem within our hearts is half the battle. If we understand our motivations, it is easier to pray about it and change our behavior. You can better “train yourself for godliness” when you can see more clearly the hindrances of your humanity.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name. . .

Philippians 2:5-9

Jesus shows us that the greatest significance can be found in insignificance. “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

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