Happy New Year, everyone.
To listen to some in the last two weeks, you’d have though the world would have ended by now. Whether goof-ball interpretations of the Mayan Calendar or shrill warnings about the fiscal cliff, we all heard that the End was Near. I started to mentally compose a Facebook status for Dec. 20 laying out what I would do it was my last day in the world: namely, I’d carry on the work and the loves God has given me.
That made me remember a secret wish of mine. All my life I have wanted to be in or at an “Important” moment in time. I’ve wanted to be a student present at that famous lecture, a participant at some historic rally, someone who ends up known for some legendary phrase or work, or just a guy who can bounce grandkids on my knees and say “I was there that day when …” There’s this yearning deep within me to be Important, to have people (or posterity) recognize that Importance.
But so far? Not so important. At least, not Important to the “Important” people who keep lists of such “Important” things. And the funny thing is, somewhere in the last 5 years (I can’t tell you where or when) I’ve become okay with being unimportant. More than okay, actually – committed to the importance of being unimportant.
Everyday is an apocalypse in the best and broadest sense of the word – an unveiling, uncovering – a revelation and disclosure. Every day is both a culmination of all that came before (bearing us “ceaselessly into the past”) and the first glimpse of something fresh and new and green, unseen and untouched. I am more and more convinced that the truly “important” moments remain unimportant to the most Important. I want to revel in the small things, to be present in each moment as if a gift is placed in my hands, to know the names of things and the read the signs like the changing of the weather or the light in each season of 6:30am bus stops. I want to reread good old books and not worry about keeping up with the new ones. I want to love a small handful of lovely people well rather than worry about whether I’ve spoken to the Important ones. I’d rather answer questions like “are you home tonight?” with a smile and nod than give affirmatives to Important invitations. I’d rather live a life of substance in obscurity rather than an anxious, Important one.
Importance is actually a temptation for me. It’s a temptation toward controlling my own destiny or writing my own story. It’s me placing Me on the throne of my heart, and to despise the unimportant or scorn the lowly is a tell-tale sign that something has gone wrong in my heart.
I don’t know if the End is Near, but I know that any day could bring it. Every day actually does as both an end and a beginning. But I know that the Lord is near, and our gentleness is to evident to all. Gentleness: that sounds like an unimportant thing – a thing not to be worried about, but sought with gratitude in your heart to God.
None of this is meant to discount what you or I do: our work and our loves remain terribly important when seen in the right context. At the end of the Hobbit, Gandalf says something remarkable to Bilbo: “Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don’t really suppose, do you that, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you, but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”
It’s not up to me to determine what is Important, because I do believe that all my adventures and escapes are managed by another. What I want to say is that I’m quite alright with being quite a little fellow in the wide world.
So Happy New year, everyone. Let’s raise a glass and toast the importance of being unimportant.