In search of significance

You ever been to the Grand Canyon? I was there. When you sit on the edge of that thing you just realize what a joke we people are… thinking that what we do is going to matter all that much, thinking that our time here means diddly to those rocks. It’s a split-second that we’ve been here, the whole lot of us. And one of us? That’s a piece of time too small to give a name. Those rocks were laughing at me, I could tell. Me and my worries is real humorous to that Grand Canyon. —Simon the tow-truck driver, in Lawrence Kasdan’s film Grand Canyon

christmastreeGrand Canyon is the story of a group of Los Angelenos who discover miracles hidden away in the random and inexplicable cruelties of life. Relationships are the source of human significance, says the film, and though our lives are mere grains of sand in the hourglass of history, love gives life its meaning. Love makes life a miracle.

And after we’ve gone? The Grand Canyon continues to deepen and widen, and the miracles of life and love create new generations of wonder.

How do we become significant people?

There is a type of significance that comes from achievement, from being recognized and lauded by the world of the arts or business or science for having made an indelible mark.

There is a type of significance that comes from relationships, from love, from a dogged, enduring commitment to all that is best for a child, a spouse, a friend.

There is a type of significance that comes from sacrifice, from risking one’s life in a grand cause, from snatching a stranger from the jaws of death, from the myriad daily acts of grace that we do to lift and give hope to those who are suffering.

All of these are part of what we might call “acquired significance.” But is there such a thing as “original significance,” something akin to the experience of the prince who at birth is destined to be king, and whose life is significant by virtue of who he is, not what he has accomplished?

There is a foundational significance that our lives are built upon, a significance that is given to us by God, our Creator.

Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Christ Jesus. And this gave him great pleasure. —Ephesians 1:4-5, NLT

In the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, God reveals something similar and quite startling:

I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my spokesman…. —Jeremiah 1:5, NLT

Our life is no accident. Our birth was no random act of passion. God, out of love, created us and gave us life. God gives us significance.

Carl Sagan used to say that the universe is filled with billions and billions of stars, and we are nothing more than a chance evolutionary occurrence on a small planet circling a minor sun in the corner of a not-very-striking galaxy. The tow-truck driver felt the same thing when he looked down into the red maw of the Grand Canyon—puny by comparison, and insignificant.

The Christian view doesn’t deny these facts; it just puts a different twist on them. God dreamed of loving us before the world existed, and his unchanging plan has been to bring us into his family, to make us his children. This God, who created the stars and galaxies, who created the mighty Grand Canyon, this very God loves us.

We do not need to search for significance; Significance has already found us.

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