Monday, June 13, 2011

Greatness

     Recent headlines once again are detailing the self-destruction of another one of the men of power who pass laws to tell us how we should live.  It happens so often, that we no longer are shocked and most buy into the idea that somehow we can still trust a man who would lie to us and betray his pregnant wife.  Meanwhile we watch as the elite mock another as incompetent and ignorant while she stands by her convictions.  They pour through her private correspondences looking for any scandal that might destroy her once and for all.

     I once thought I wanted to be great at something.  In my younger years I truly believed that I was capable of greatness.  I wasn't sure in what way it would manifest itself, but in my heart, I knew that I had a seed that properly planted and tended would outgrow who I was and make me somehow larger than I was.  Life has shown me that I am not destined for fame or glory in the wide world.  I have far too much a sense of my own weaknesses and faults.  I also have come to see that greatness is not what brings power and fame nor does celebrity forge greatness.  I'm still not even certain what greatness really is, but I have a pretty good sense what it is not.

     I look at the people I have known in my life.  I think of my father who never finished college and had a once successful business ripped away from him in a short time.  He raised 10 children and has remained faithful to my mother for 43 years.  He has never wavered in his faith in God.  He has his weaknesses certainly.  He never achieved any degree of fame or renown, but he is someone I would consider truly great.   

     I once though greatness was the ability to make a lasting impression on the world.  I thought it meant living in a way that the world could not forget you.  How many men can ever accomplish that though.  Time has a way of erasing all that we do.  Most of our accomplishments are remembered only by ourselves and are buried with us at the end of our lives.  More often than not it is their great failures that survive men in history.  Still, we long for greatness.  I think we just don't know what greatness really is.

     I imagine a lake.  It's surface still like glass.  Each life is a drop of rain falling into the body of that lake creating a series of ripples spreading out across the surface.  If we could alone see how those circles of influence spread, we could perhaps measure the worth of that life.  Some would be small, scarcely noticeable.  Others would make a huge splash and create great waves.  The problem is that no drop strikes the surface alone.  Humanity is a rainstorm pelting the surface endlessly and the circles collide with one another.  The result is a billion ripples overlapping and getting lost in one another.  The imprint of even the biggest impact is soon lost in the midst of the storm.   I think I need a better definition of greatness.

     In life there is no equality.  We all are given varying degrees of wealth, power, talent, intellect, beauty and determination.  As I experience more of life, I am starting to believe that it matters not so much what we are given, but what we do with it.  I have seen people with countless wealth throw it away for nothing.  I have seen great intellect squandered.  I have also seen men with very little of either achieve far more in life than they should.  Some men seem to be born lucky and others cannot seem to catch a break.  Perhaps greatness is not measured on an absolute scale like we want to believe, but rather on a more individual basis.

     I want my children to know themselves.  I want them to find their strengths and I will help them nurture those strengths.  I want them to work hard and enjoy life.  I want them to strive to be more than they are today but be content with what God has given them.  I believe we have but one purpose in life and that is to be all that God created us to be.  It is easy to compare ourselves to others and give up when we find ourselves less gifted than the next guy.  I will not let the world judge me by its standard.  I will teach my children that they should also not allow themselves to be judged by the world's standard.  Maybe I will only achieve greatness in the eyes of my sons and daughter.  If I can live a life that holds fast to my convictions, if I can say at the end of each day that I have not compromised who I am or what I believe, and if I can stand someday before my Creator and say that whether He entrusted me with 10 talents or 5 or 1 I invested it wisely, then I suppose that I truly will have lived a life that was great.