The need to feel a sense of significance is intrinsic to being human. As a result, we try to get our value from wherever we can. We might look to our education, career, relationships, talents, or appearance. We may look to our home, our car, or any number of things to make us feel good about ourselves. It can even become an addiction or an obsession.
For most of my life, I tried to get my value from accomplishment. I thought that if I got good grades in school, put myself through college, worked hard at my job, or raised successful kids, that my accomplishment would give me a sense of value.
The problem was, it was never enough. I never reached a point where I said, “Okay, now I feel like I have value.” I had to keep on achieving in order to get my fix.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be successful in our endeavors. The problem only arises when we mistakenly believe that we must be something or do something or have something in order to matter in this world.
In my case, I didn’t even realize this belief was in operation. In fact, I had no idea I was getting my value from accomplishment until it was taken away from me by a very long and debilitating illness. It was only after I was stripped of the ability to accomplish even the simplest of tasks that I began to see the truth about myself.
Although an education can never be taken away, almost everything else we use to give us value is temporal. If we get our value from our job, what happens when we get laid off or retire? If we get our value from our spouse or children, what happens when we are faced with divorce, an empty nest, or the death of a spouse? We have a little more control over our talents and appearance, but despite our best efforts both will eventually be ravaged by age.
Maybe that is why so many people choose to get their value from where they live and what they drive. At least homes and cars can be traded in and upgraded when everything else seems to be going downhill. Yet, even those can be lost.
Maintaining a sense of significance that can never be shaken, then, requires that we get our value from a radically different place. My long illness forced me to go to that place and to live in that place.
It is the place where I was healed of all my striving to accomplish and learned to simply “be”. It is the place where I suffered and wrestled and resisted, until slowly, over the course of 20 years, I came to grips with accepting I have value simply because I exist.
When I finally came to rest on the truth that my value is dependent not on the temporal things of this world, but is instead completely dependent on the eternal love of my Creator, I found peace in that place.
Now, I know my value can never be taken away. I also know I never have to strive to get it. Now, my value doesn’t come from anything I do at all. It comes only from above, where it has always been beckoning me.