I was visiting a mentor and friend in my hometown this past week. He’s a good man, a humble man, and someone I describe as both wise and kind. He served as a leader in his church denomination and it’s from him I learned many things; spiritual things, practical things, and those things that make the mystery of life a pleasure. My friend has been retired from ministry for some time and his health isn’t very good. It’s tough to see him in such a feeble state, yet even in his weakened condition, he maintains a certain dignity which I’ve always admired.
In our conversation together my friend made a comment in jest that struck me. We were discussing that fact because he’s retired he’s not in charge of anything anymore. No one seeks his advice or asks him to serve in any official capacity. Because of his current situation he said, “I’m not important anymore” and chuckled to himself. I know he certainly wasn’t lamenting a lost state of importance he believed he deserved, he has always been a service minded humble individual. Yet, after he said those words I was compelled to reminded him being important is an illusion of the young and arrogant. I reminded him he had something greater than importance; he had love. This man was truly loved by the many people he served throughout his life. He was there for people when their children were born, ministered to families with prayer and counsel during difficult times, and celebrated the joyful times of new marriages and family growth. He was invested in the lives of numerous people and selflessly gave of himself to others, even those who didn’t often treat him kindly. In the end, for many, he was there to bury a parent, a partner of many years, or in the hardest of situations, the premature death of a child. My friend knew what it meant to invest in the lives of other people. He loved with a heart of charity in times and for people where charity was often the last response they expected to receive.
When I left my friend that day I made myself a promise. I promised myself to never be drawn into the illusion of importance. While I’m not one to advocate for extreme self-deprecation, I do think sometimes we make more of ourselves and our role in life than we should. I think like many arrogant and foolish people, we frequently think what we do and our place in this world is much more significant than it is. The one remedy for getting over ourselves is to give ourselves away in sacrificial love. C. S. Lewis wrote in his popular book Mere Christianity, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” We can defeat the illusion of importance by finding ways to invest ourselves in others, thinking less of ourselves, and loving people who often never experience true acts of charity. Being loved and loving others is a cure for so many things. In the end, when we lay our heads on that pillow for the last time, we won’t be adding up the level of importance we’ve achieved as if we’re earning tokens in a videogame, we’ll ask ourselves two simple questions. The first is, “Was I loved?”, and the second will be, “Did I love others enough?” Avoid the illusion of importance and embrace the reality of love. It’s in love our lives matter more than anything else. It’s in love importance is consumed by a burning flame and turned into the ashes it really is. Love is eternal and you live eternally when people are impacted by the love you’ve given them.