The Challenge Of One Solitary Life, And The Search For Significance.

Significance

I don’t know about you, but I have a constant battle that rages inside me for significance. I want to matter. I want to matter to God, to my wife, my kids, the people at church, my friends, my family, and even to perfect strangers.  But sometimes (more than I like to admit) I catch myself  going about the search for significance in the wrong ways. When I read this poem by Dr. James Allan Francis (1926) I am reminded that, sometimes, significance comes when we are being insignificant.

One Solitary Life — by Dr. James Allan Francis

Let us turn now to the story. A child is born in an obscure village. He is brought up in another obscure village. He works in a carpenter shop until he is thirty, and then for three brief years is an itinerant preacher, proclaiming a message and living a life.

He never writes a book.

He never holds an office.

He never raises an army.

He never has a family of his own.

He never owns a home.

He never goes to college.

He never travels two hundred miles from the place where he was born.

He gathers a little group of friends about him and teaches them his way of life. While still a young man, the tide of popular feeling turns against him. One denies him; another betrays him. He is turned over to his enemies. He goes through the mockery of a trial; he is nailed to a cross between two thieves, and when dead is laid in a borrowed grave by the kindness of a friend.

Those are the facts of his human life. He rises from the dead. Today we look back across nineteen hundred years and ask, What kind of trail has he left across the centuries? When we try to sum up his influence,

all the armies that ever marched,

all the parliaments that ever sat,

all the kings that ever reigned

are absolutely picayune in their influence on mankind compared with that of this one solitary life…

One Solitary Life: by Dr James Allan Francis in “The Real Jesus and Other Sermons” © 1926 by the Judson Press of Philadelphia (pp 123-124 titled “Arise Sir Knight!”).

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  • Joshua

    Wow! This is the third time I’ve heard One Solitary Life in the past few months! I was fortunate enough to attend a Christmas Story reading by Michael W. Smith while in Disney World. He read the story of Christmas, interspaced with hymns and songs, and then, at the end, read One Solitary Life. It was also read at our New Year’s Party(I should know, me and my best friend had to do it) It’s a really powerful message.

  • http://theordainedbarista.com Barry Hill

    Josh,
    How cool is that? Michael W. Smith at Disney? Man, that’s awesome! Would you believe that I only heard that poem for the first time a few weeks ago? that sounds like a great New Year’s party! Thanks Joshua!

  • Anonymous

    This is the first time I have read this story and it’s such a good one. It’s amazing God has called us live a life of purpose and value. Remembering we are significant can be hard sometimes, especially living in our society. Great reminder and post.

  • http://theordainedbarista.com Barry Hill

    Dan,
    Thanks for your comments and input! I think you’re right that our society does exacerbate an already difficult challenge. And, you are right, in the end it is God that gives us our purpose, value and significance.

  • Rakkasan69

    That is such a wonderful post Barry. I found in my life that when I am trying in my own power to make a difference, I am running on EGO and PRIDE. The sick part is that I still catch myself doing it. I have gotten better but it is still something I need to be mindful of. It was suggested of me to pay attention to what God has called me to do instead. This is proving to be very difficult but the rewards have been incredible and I am finding that I no longer have the worry of wondering if I have made a difference.

  • tony babcock

    sorry the rakkasan69 is me Tony Babcock

  • Eric

    Elizabeth and I were talking about being significant tonight. I’m glad I read this article. I’ll have a lot to think about tomorrow. I believe there is a book titled, Search For Significance but I don’t know who it is by. Anyway, this blog post has me thinking. I wonder if we think and search so much about being significant we miss all the opportunities to be significant. I wonder if being significant has nothing to do with us personally at all; but another….???

  • Eric

    Elizabeth and I were talking about being significant tonight. I’m glad I read this article. I’ll have a lot to think about tomorrow. I believe there is a book titled, Search For Significance but I don’t know who it is by. Anyway, this blog post has me thinking. I wonder if we think and search so much about being significant we miss all the opportunities to be significant. I wonder if being significant has nothing to do with us personally at all; but another….???