This is my confession: I have sought significance from my email inbox. I have looked to my emails to tell me who I am. In doing so, I have given people power over me that I never should have given. Only God can name me.
A few years ago I’m at a men’s retreat, and not just any men’s retreat. This men’s retreat is ten years from the day that my life fell apart and I crawled into a care facility. It’s ten years from the day that I checked into a hospital and asked for help. At the retreat, I realize the anniversary, and in a hush of heat and wonder, I understand that God is up to something: I will let God have his way.
Throughout the weekend, a theme keeps rising: my search for significance. As I inventory my childhood and my twenties, It turns up at key points. Often I am questing to prove my significance, searching for that thing or word or person that will put the question to rest: “Do I matter?”
But the issue had not been settled. So at the retreat, I weep for that question, and I yell in anger, at the places it has taken me. Oh to prove that I matter.
Then, standing up alongside this plaguing question, comes a voice. It’s small and still, but even as it’s spoken, it causes my chest to rise, my head to clear. The voice says, “I’m giving you a new name. It shall be, ‘You matter to me.’”
In this moment, God has renamed me, and I’m brave enough to believe this pressing glory.
Yes, this is it. The answer to my question, the end of my search. Of course it is so simple. Through church and Sunday School, I had learned I mattered to God:
He made me in His image.
He breathed life into my lungs.
He set out my days before one of them came to pass.
He sent His Son to die for me.
He prepared a place in eternity for me.
But somehow, the education wasn’t enough to settle my search. I needed to know it through and through, the voice of the father to son, Creator to creation—primal, essential, spiritual. It needed to come directly. So on this day, heightened in my awareness, God spoke my name directly. And I was changed.
But quickly the idols formed, like weeds that were not removed. Years passed between my naming and today. I started to look to people for significance, wondered if I mattered to them. Emails became affirmations of my standing. A full inbox said, “You matter,” and an empty one said, “You don’t.” I forgot the name God had given me, exchanging it for earthly names of flesh and feel.
I became aware of what was happening, but explained it away: It’s good to be significant to others. It’s good to be counted upon. I want my work to be valued. I want to matter to others. And it all seemed okay. Who wouldn’t want to matter to their friends? Who wouldn’t want to be significant? But there’s usually truth in our lies. That’s why we fall for them. That’s why I fell for them.
I had raised man’s opinion above God’s. God said I mattered, but the inbox said I didn’t. I believed the inbox instead of God. That’s what brings me to where I am today. Smartphone email addiction is the symptom of a false name.
And so I come to this conclusion:
Being significant to God is necessary;
being significant to others is nice.
Don’t confuse nice with what’s necessary.