Imagine this. You enter a tattered room scattered with lifeless people. The stench of death is overwhelming and persistent. But so is the pressing of an undeniable force. What is this thing that is trying so desperately to disrupt the circumstance of this room? It’s so vast, you can’t get around it. It’s a sensation called greatness, an average-sized word with a massive appeal.
Greatness breaches cramped spaces where practices of mundane and mediocre suffocate. Much like an athlete who puts in the extra work to help catapult his/her team to record-breaking stats. Or the “techie” who engages in relentless innovation to transform how the world responds in crises. Anyone interested in the beauty and hope of greatness has to deny within themselves every thought and action that sabotages a pursuit to be better and to do better.
Seekers of greatness have target focus, distinct goals, and recognition and reliance on someone more significant than their pursuits. The Almighty God, the great ‘I Am,’ is the giver of greatness. Are we comfortable refusing God’s gift, only to remain lifeless? God’s grace provides space and opportunity for us to grab hold of the greatness He gives. Inviting God into our cramped and dismal experiences makes room for Him to show His might, compelling us to move out of our own way to let God have His way.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” – Revelation 1:8
“I assure you that whoever believes in me will do the works that I do. They will do even greater works than these because I am going to the Father.” – John 14:12
I met a stranger a few days ago who shared something powerful with me. In our brief interaction she said she was having a challenging day. In that moment she was pressing her way through her work shift while also pressing her way through the realities of taking chemotherapy every day. The more I listened intently, the more she shared. She explained she was living with a rare blood disease that required a daily chemotherapy pill for her survival. My jaw dropped, and my forehead wrinkled. This woman didn’t look ill, nor did she struggle to move around. However, she did look a little worn, no doubt tattered by the issues life. Still she mustered up a big smile on her face and fashioned a smile in her eyes. She looked determined, wearing her work uniform with pride and what seemed to be a shield of perseverance across her chest. This woman was a walking sermon. A walking testimony that edified me in that very moment.
Yes, I’ve experienced life and death situations in my personal journey. Situations where God’s mighty hand saved me. Yet, somehow, I was finding it difficult to allow those experiences to minister to me in my current realities; realities that include aging parents with health challenges, finishing my doctoral studies and wearing multiple hats in carrying out the responsibilities of wife and mother. Meeting this stranger reminded me of the gift of life. No matter our predicaments or setbacks, God gifts to us seconds, minutes and hours in days we’ve never seen before. God gifts to us a world to walk freely in, humbly living our testimonies in the midst of people who need to be edified, who need to be resuscitated and encouraged. Sermons are not always preached from a pulpit. They are effectively lived. What sermon is your life preaching? Whose life have you edified without bringing attention to yourself? Someone is waiting for you to walk their way.
There are mysteries in this life that leave me often times perplexed. How the newly healed return to ill-mannered behavior. How the professed ‘delivered’ resort to trouble-making. How the resurrected reject a new life to hold on to the former. Yes, it’s all quite puzzling. It appears the second chance God awards in our cries of need are quickly discarded as trash at the first trick of the eye, the onset of a compelling lofty thought or the sleek sly whisper in the ear. And still, our loving God continues to give. He gives us another chance. And another chance.
Are we content with leaving such an ungrateful impression with God? Or is our response to God’s gracious acts, “We deserve them”? Our bold disrespectful behaviors reveal such suggestions. I can hear the ancestors moan in disgust. Was their living in vain? Is our living in vain? Our testimonies are not to be episodic tales we share. Our testimonies must motivate us to live a transformed life, which in turn encourages others to live transformed. For the Lord is good. He deserves our respect. He deserves our best.
Some things need to be said, again and again. “We’re not promised tomorrow.” These words can cut deep in hindsight and in pressing through. However, these words are lived, rather than mourned, when we embrace the “right now” moment God is allowing us to experience, for what will later be revealed as gathered parts of a whole that will all work together for our good (Romans 8:28).
We are inundated with reminders in our news, communities and families that indeed tomorrow is not promised. Yet, we must fight the urge to feel helpless or hopeless. We must succumb to a “a-ha” moment that illuminates a “yes”, eyes wide open, to a new perspective of our present moments. The Bible reminds in Romans 12:2 that a new perspective is a transformation, a renewing of the mind that allows us to figure out what God’s will is – what is good and pleasing and mature (Common English Bible).
Love more and despise less. Look to the sidelines rather than the spotlight. Walk in the beauty that is your story and refuse to wallow in comparisons. Run toward the weary, the mistreated and left behind. And resist the adversary in all of its forms of deception and hostility. Let’s run our race like God is watching. Let’s run our race like our tomorrow depends on it.