Changing the world ain’t what it’s cracked up to be. What a burden it would be to think that in order for a life to truly count before the Lord someone must do something that has a far-reaching, epoch-sweeping impact that will echo down throughout the ages in connection with their name. Yet far too often it seems as though “changing the world” has become synonymous with “be remembered by people that never knew you” as though true importance is measured by how much impact you have upon those you’ve never met.
Whenever a celebrity dies, there’s an almost ritualistic outpouring of public grief – “2016 can’t get any worse now that Leonard Cohen died.” But the truth is that Leonard Cohen’s presence among the living or the dead has absolutely zero impact upon you. His music, fixed and in the past, might. But the sum total of their deaths is a mere vapor of grief that evaporates away and then is forgotten.
For me, I want to teach my sons to devote their time to doing the things that only they can do. I am the only one who can be a good husband to my wife – to lead her in godliness, to love and to cherish her, to sacrifice and care for her needs. I’m the only one who will be a father to my sons, to teach them what it means to be a man in a confused world, to be willing to suffer outside the camp, to respect others and care for those who are suffering. Others will certainly have influence, but I’m the only Daddy they get. And they need me to be the best kind of Daddy there is.
Far too often we worry about the breadth of our impact and neglect the truth that the real worth is in the depth. If John Piper didn’t exist, I would have simply read other books. If my pastor didn’t exist, I probably wouldn’t have married my wife. This isn’t to deny the way the Lord uses men who do great things. But the cumulative impact of a thousand sermons in my local church has far greater result than books written from afar by a stranger.
Even the grandest fame is always localized and temporalized. The name Thomas Edison means nothing in Croatia. But as much as those two concepts undermine fame, they also are the twin realities that give vitality to our ordinary lives. We are meant to be both localized and temporalized as part of God’s design. All of us live in a particular location in a particular moment in time after which we will return to the dust from whence we came. When we succumb to the lie that public importance is the path to spiritual worth we fail to do the very things that God has imbued with spiritual worth. What profit is reaching the world if you’ve never reached your neighbor next door?
And so, Blaise and Gresham, my prayer for you is not that you’ll be world changers. My prayer for you is that you will faithfully live to make much of Christ in whatever small circle the Lord has placed you in. I pray that you’ll love your church and serve there, love your spouse and children (should God bless you so), care for your aging and hopefully not-too-senile parents, talk about things that matter with your neighbors, and work at your professions to Christ’s honor. And when you go your funeral won’t be televised. There won’t be a storm of vaporously grieving people. But there will be rejoicing in heaven and you’ll hear a phrase used for millions before you and millions after – “Well done, good and faithful servant.”