What is True Greatness?

Woke up at the ungodly hour of 4:15 this morning. Started reading Through the Eyes of a Lion. This is the new small group study for our church. I love his question: How do you live out an extraordinary calling while doing ordinary things and living in a world that is all screwed up? I’ve had this question for a long time. So many Christian authors tell us that we are destined for great things, giving us the expectation that we are supposed to be some great preacher, missionary, entrepreneur, innovator, doctor, etc. And when we find that our lives are basically ordinary, we begin to question and doubt this whole idea of calling and greatness, being fearfully and wonderfully made, crafted in God’s image. We question whether or not those things can be true when we are washing the same dishes for the millionth time or driving the carpool
from school day after day or walking the same halls at work or school all of the time.

I won national preaching awards and writing awards and excellence in ministry awards in seminary. I thought that God would use those skills and that by now I would be a speaker or writer of some acclaim. Instead, I spend days with the sick and hurting in a community hospital, often times a lonely senior adult who wants to tell stories about the farm or their grandkids. I listen to the hurt and pain, the joys and successes. When I worked at the VA hospital in Tennessee, I listened to stories of ordinary men who did extraordinary things. I sang hymns with guys who couldn’t remember their families, let alone remember their own names but could somehow remember the words to the old hymns. I visit with patients who just had their gallbladder removed who are worried about their divorce or their adult child in jail for drugs or their spouse at home with the beginning of Alzheimers.

 

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I listen to others and often find biblical parallels, sharing the wisdom of God’s word. I sit with families in the ER waiting room, I accompany the Dr. as he or she delivers the news no one wants to hear, and I stay with the family after the doctor leaves, often holding people who are wracked with sorrows and sobs. I check with our nurses, and I make sure that the body is as presentable as can be before it is viewed. I escort families, I stay with them, I step out to allow privacy, allowing my gut instinct, otherwise known as the Holy Spirit to tell me when to linger, when to hug, when to step away, when to speak, when to be silent, when to pray. I comfort and support nurses who day in and day out take care of patients who are grateful, combative, who physically assault them, who treat them as servants, who are afraid, who are endearing, and whose stories break their hearts.

And I remember the names…Anthony, Lucas, McIntyre, Leah, Dylan, Sara, Sean…all young and gone before their time. And at the end of the day I pick my kids up in the car line at school, shuttle them to music lessons and soccer practices, and fix them a somewhat healthy dinner. Then, I get up early in the morning, spend time reading, praying, and go for a run to to clear the emotions and mental junk from the day before, and I do it all over again.

What does it mean to be extraordinary? What does it mean to have an extraordinary calling on one’s life? One of my seminary professors, Dr. David May, defined it as this: Your calling in life is where the world’s greatest needs and your greatest joys intersect. I see the world’s greatest need as my own deep seated need: To be valued, significant, to be worthy. I have struggled with this my entire life. And I find great joy (and sometimes heartache) in giving over some of the moments of my life to offer significance and value, if even briefly, to the lives of others.

What is true greatness? I have heard greatness defined as this by Tim Kimmel from “Raising Kids for True Greatness”:” True greatness is a passionate love for God that demonstrates itself in an unquenchable love and concern for others.”. I have become the one who holds sacred the stories of others, who believes that everyone has a story, and everyone’s story is worth listening to.

Now, if I could only believe that my story is worth listening to…

Jennifer Judd (M.Div. 2001)