Everyone on the planet is designed to make a difference. No matter our age or stage, married or single, living in the city, the suburbs, or the country, with little education or a PhD, with lots of money or little-each of us, as a believer, is on this planet to make a mark.
The greatest mark we can make is to show others who God is. Scripture makes clear: 'Each person is given something to do that shows who God is,' Paul writes to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 12:7 TM).
So what is that 'something to do' for me? For you?
How do I find my 'something'?
I used to have a hundred questions about how I was to make my difference, and that's where I got bogged down. I approached my difference making as a cosmic quest to find the unique way I could show the character of God.
I wanted to find my path.
What could it be? How would it be made known? Where should I look? Truth be told, no cosmic quest is needed to find the answers to these questions.
Here's what it comes down to: God is love, so by default, if our purpose on this planet is to show who God is, we are born to love. That's how we make our mark.
We make our mark when we . . .
walk the floor all night with a crying baby,
resist snubbing someone we feel deserves it,
reveal our own insecurities to a friend who thinks we're always strong,
give gratitude to people who've helped us, or go out of our way to encourage a disheartened friend.
I realize I'm not the first to make known this fundamental fact. But it is this essential truth that enables me to make a difference with my life-and to tell you that you matter more than you think.
'Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits,' this passage from 1 Corinthians continues. 'All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people!' (verse 7).
Each of us, with our differing quirks, gifts, opportunities, networks, whims, and wishes-like the countless grains of sand on a beach-is designed to make this world a better place. God has made you for this purpose. You are created in His image.
While not everyone chooses to walk the loving path, and while some seem to get distracted or lose their passion, the difference-making path of love is available to all who want to make their lives count. And it will, indeed, make all the difference.
Here's the good news. You don't have to be in a place of prominence, you don't have to live in a certain area, you don't even have to acquire qualities you don't already possess. You don't have to be 'put together,' well spoken, or magnetic. And you certainly don't have to be living the perfect life.
In fact, your personal pain and the brokenness of your life may be vital to how you are designed to make your unique difference. I think that's what Paul was getting at in this passage when he said, 'I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less' (I Corinthians 12:14 TM).
It is undeniable that each of us is an original. But on some days, we need to be convinced that being 'original' is good. After all, one of the things in life that trips us up the most is the comparison game.
I wish I looked like her.
If only I could cook like that.
She's got such style.
Everybody likes her, I'm just sort of on the fringes.
Her children seem so perfect. Then there are mine . . .
Why does she get all the best customers?
Why did he go for her, and not me? What's wrong with me?
Whenever we compare ourselves to others-whether it's Mother Teresa or a friend down the street-we are bound to think we should be more this or less that. What we are saying, in fact, is 'I don't want to be an original.'
Playing the comparison game is the surest way to question your contribution to the world and to deride the difference you make. You are designed to make a difference-an original difference. And you matter more than you think.
So don't be surprised if some of the things you're good at aren't on someone's list of top skills or on the traditional list of spiritual gifts.
Sometimes your gifts can seem so 'usual' to you that they don't seem special or worth noting. You wave them off, thinking, 'Everybody does that,' when, in fact, everybody can't do that.
You may not even know what you're good at until someone else points it out. 'Hey, I notice how calm you are in a crisis.' Or, 'You're such a wonderful organizer!' It's amazing what you can learn about yourself by simply listening to what others are really saying-or by asking others what they think you're good at.
No matter what your story is to this point, you cannot escape what you were created to do. No matter how you try. You can rebel against it, ignore it, downplay it, or put it on hold.
But in the DNA of your soul are all the makings for a heart of love that yearns to make a positive difference.
'A (woman) leaves all kinds of footprints when she walks through life,' says author Margaret Lee Runbeck. 'Some you can see, like her children and house. Others are invisible, like the (prints) she leaves across other people's lives . . . A (woman) doesn't think about it, but everywhere she passes, she leaves some kind of mark.'
I couldn't agree more with Margaret, except on one point. I believe women do think about the mark they leave. If not often, at least at some point, every woman ponders her purpose and the enduring difference of her life. Each of us brings our own story, our own attributes, our own 'originality' to this never-ending enterprise of love. And because of this, you matter more than you think!
Leslie Parrott is co-founder of RealRelationships.com and author of You Matter More Than You Think.
Holiness Today, January/February 2010