Wednesday, September 07, 2011
Destined for Greatness?
Recently, I had a really interesting conversation with a friend about a book that she had just finished reading. This book (which I have not read and don't even remember the title of) was a parenting book with a unique angle. The book itself was actually based on a research study that someone undertook on "superstar Christians" (my words--I don't have any idea what they called their research subjects). Essentially, the researchers sought out Christians who were living obvious lives of faith, and worked backwards by interviewing these people to figure out how their parents did "the right things" that caused them to become the people they eventually became.
The results that my friend rattled off were intriguing. The researchers were able to identify several factors that the parents had in common. They identified things like clear boundaries in media exposure and small family size as the "ideal" factors to raising a "great Christian". It was like they had cooked up a recipe for parents to follow if they wanted to raise a certain type of child, and at that moment, it seemed very appealing to me. Yes, I want my children to spend their lives leading ministries or being great missionaries. Of course! Sounds awesome! I am so glad to now have the checklist that will get me there!
However, being the former debate student that I am, it finally occurred to me to have my friend define her terms a bit (because I was confused). She kept talking about wanting to raise these "great" Christians, and how this book had really uncovered something. But I realized that I didn't fully understand what was meant by a "great" Christian. And so I asked, and it seems that the book defined a great Christian as one who is a leader in the field of, well, Christianity. It includes movers and shakers in ministry, in missions, in service--in a way, celebrities in their fields. People whose lives are clearly marked by the gospel, but who are also leading the way in a visible, noticeable way. And that made sense. That does seem "great", and as a parent, it seems like something worth aspiring to.
But then I began to get that gnawing feeling I sometimes get when something doesn't quite jive in my brain. There was this idea, this voice, saying to me, "What are you aiming for?" I had no idea what that meant, but I have learned to listen to these types of things. They are way smarter than I. So I thought about it. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my friend and I were approaching this idea of raising "great" Christian children in a backwards sort of way. Our aim was a little off.
You see, if the whole point of us being put on this earth for eighty-odd years is for us to become great leaders, great impactors....then I think that the human race could have figured that out long ago. The authors of this book, after all, did one research study and found pretty conclusive research about how to raise someone to be a great leader. But the more I think about it, I don't think that's the point.
God never told us to, "Go and be great because that is what will please me. Lead many, lead them well and with much creativity, and be loved for it." Did he? Being great was never His aim for us. Being respected and honored and praised and beloved--well...those are all things that come up in the Bible...but they are in regards to God. He is the one who is great. So...as bad as this sounds...should I aim for my children to be "great"? Maybe not. But where does this leave us? Should I teach my children to be slackers?
Luckily, though, there is some instruction. The Bible does indeed address this question, as the disciples seemed to wrestle with it some themselves. They were in the presence of Jesus himself, and he had just done some amazing things, but they were worried about how to become the greatest of his followers. Sound familiar? (Maybe they could have benefited from the book?)
Jesus tells us this: "Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all" (Mark 9:35).
So are we aiming for greatness, or are we aiming for servanthood? Do we really believe that in order to be great in Jesus' estimation, that we must be the servant of all? We must be not just the last, but the very last? Instead of lining up the circumstances of my children's lives so that they may become "great", should I teach them about living a life of lastness and humility because that is the only way to truly become great?
And even if we believe with our whole hearts that the way to greatness--the true way to true greatness--is to become the very last, how in the world do we do that? What does that even look like?
You must all pity my children. I can't say that I blame you.