When My Impact Is Small
At a retreat several years ago, I had the chance to combine a few of my favorite things — great people and making music. Part way through one of our evenings, I pulled out my Mountain Dulcimer, was shortly joined by a Guitar, and we were shortly joined by a group of folks singing along.
As we went around picking out hymns to sing though, I began to question the necessity of my contribution. At that point, it consisted solely of playing melody lines. Additionally, it was quite possible that most of the people around couldn’t really hear even this simple contribution. Having a feeling that I wasn’t seeing the whole picture, I shook off the thoughts and continued making music with my friends. Later on, it struck me that life often appears this way. Most of us aren’t front and center, making huge impacts on the world. Our sphere of influence is limited. We have what appears to be a simple supporting role. Think crowd extras in a movie. This fact usually leads me to the following conclusion: I’ve failed. After all, if I was really doing all I could, my impact would be larger. Despair Inc.’s poster for failure1 captures the feeling well. There are three false assumptions behind this thought:
- “I have an accurate perception of my impact” – As a finite human being, I can’t fully comprehend how God is using my actions. Only God has the perspective to know the true importance of my actions.
- “My work isn’t necessary” – The fact that I’m making a minor impact on the world does not automatically mean that what I’ve been given to do is optional. The tasks to which God directs us are not busy work to keep us occupied. We are directed to them because they need to be accomplished.
- “God is more pleased with others work because their impact is bigger” – Paul had some great advice about comparing ourselves to others: Don’t (2 Corinthians. 10:12-182). God’s pleasure is not based on how we stack up with others. Instead, God’s pleasure is based on how well we used the opportunities given to us.
In order to correct these ideas moving forward, two steps are required. First, I need to place God and his glory at the center of my focus and desires. Worrying about whether my impact measures up to others’ comes from wanting to glorify me and my work. Second, I need to take the advice of the author of Ecclesiastes to heart: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). The opportunities I have to glorify God and expand his kingdom should be pursued to their fullest.
Most of the time, the opportunities presented to us will not be glamorous. However, when God and his glory is the focus of our desire, following him will be more important than how our results stack up to others’.
What current opportunities has God given you to glorify him?
What is your next step in pursuing them?