Chasing the holy grail of significance

I went to bed last night thinking about how it sometimes seems that people are on a never-ending search for the holy grail of significance. We want to feel like who we are and what we do in this world is unique, has value, matters. But the world is a big place and there are lots of people, and it’s not so easy to differentiate yourself. How does any one person feel special in a sea of humanity? Here are a few things I’ve explored, related to this:

1) Disconnecting the meaning of life from the significance of my place in it.

I was an unplanned child… an “accident” from a purely that’s-the-it-was view. So, since childhood I’ve carried this burned to prove I belong and have the right to be here. My religious involvement added fuel to the fire by suggesting I needed to pull off some epic thing for God. The problem with this way of thinking is that it ends up being a game of comparisons. “Significant,” relative to what? There are 7 billion people on the planet and there’s always going to be… I don’t know… maybe like a few billion people who did more and achieved more than I did!! Then I’m left with arguing and defending that “my epic is better than your epic.” So, I unplugged life’s meaning from my relative place of importance in it. The two have nothing to do with each other, and if you connect the two plan on a life of searching but never grasping the holy grail of significance.

2) Define and create “significance” and the “meaning of life” for yourself.

Life has no meaning except the meaning we attach to it. Let me put it another way. Life is a gift from God and has inherent worth and value as such. But the significance and meaning of life for you is something you create. There is no lockbox at the center of the universe with the answer to what it means to be significant and experience the meaning of life. Nor does the Bible supply this. Here’s the deal – life unfolds within a web of relationships – relationship with yourself, relationship with the divine or God, relationship with others, relationship with all living things, but within that web or context of relationships you get to define, choose and create how or where you experience meaning and significance. No one can define that for you; you get to define, create, and experience it for yourself.

3) Follow what resonates with your deepest feelings.

Life isn’t a math test. It’s more like fingerpaint. If you want to know what it means for you to be “significant” and experience “meaning” in life, pay attention and listen to what you most deeply feel inside. What resonates deeply with you and who you are? When no one is looking, what captures your heart, inspires you, moves you, satisfies you, stirs you, aligns you, awakens you, centers you, motivates you? What that is for me is different than what it is for you. The “significance” and “meaning” in it is not defined by the outcome or something that can be measured by numbers or fame. Allow significance and meaning be the overflow of a life that is an expression of those things you feel most deeply inside.

Latest Comments

  1. jackiedoss says:

    Jim, when I thought I was going to die of melanoma, I found myself mourning the person I could have been. I kept asking God, “What significant thing am I supposed to do? I know I was put here for a purpose. Show it to me, before it’s too late!”

    One of my favorite TV shows at the time was “Joan of Arcadia,” about the teenager who saw God in the form of different people. He usually had a task for her to blindly oblige to, not knowing why. The episode that awakened me was one in which Joan wanted “a thing,” a thing that made her special. Her boyfriend had art. Her brother had science. Everyone she knew seemed to be good at something. And she wanted that spcial thing that made her stand out.

    God told her to work on the yearbook, so she took that as “This is it! This is my THING! I’m going to excel at it. People will notice me! I’ll be Joan of the photographer!” Her stint at the yearbook turned out to be one disappointment after another. She was assigned to taking out the trash.

    Then, in the trash, she found a poem that her friend wrote. She made copies of it and littered the campus with it, so that her friend’s poem could be read by everyone. The poem was anonymously written, and her deed was anonymously performed. But it showed her friend how much she cared for her, and it enlightened the whole school.

    That, as it turned out, was her thing…. a small deed for that moment. I realized that I no longer had to strive for “a thing,” or regret that I never had one. I realized that living purposely in each moment, appreciating others, showing them love, speaking truth into their lives, just being there when needed by them… that is the essence of everyones “big thing.” Everyone’s big thing is a lot of little things.

    Our obscurity is our biggest blessing, and can be a multitude of blessings to the world.

  2. Irina says:

    How curious…I was just pondering upon my own insignificance and sense of uselessness when I come across this blog and a wonderfully thoughtful response to it…Thought-provoking, to say the least!

  3. misscrystalthepistol says:

    I absolutely needed this simple/new thought. So often being raised in a Christian environment it is easy to feel like we have this ONE BIG PURPOSE and if we somehow MISS IT we are SCREWED FOR LIFE. I found freedom in this post.. thank you for sharing!

  4. Jonathan Montan (@JonathanMontan) says:

    So timely man. Been thinking about the same things

  5. Debbie says:

    Thank you so much for writing this, both to you, Jim, and to jackiedoss in the comments. I needed to hear this today.

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