Day 311 of 1000
I happened onto a great article by David French at NRO this afternoon. I very much encourage you to read the whole thing. It was about who unimportant we are. it very much resonated with me. He pointed out the fact that, even though in the big picture, we are literally irrelevant, we do not have to be irrelevant to everyone.
Not to my family, however. For them, my loss would change everything. That’s when I realized a fundamental truth — a truth we’d all do well to remember: We can have (at best) a small amount of influence over a large number of people, but we will only have a large amount of influence over a small number of people.
An old friend and I were talking (via email) about just that topic the other day. As my kids finish up there time at home with Lorena and I, we have begun to realize that the relevance of our lives is tied up in helping just a few other people, but in a very personal way. With the kids moving on to bigger and better things before long, we want to find a way not to lose that relevance. Some people move to a foreign country to help spread the gospel. Others stay at home to involve themselves with grandchildren, charity, important causes, and other such worthy endeavors. It seems easy to maintain relavance when it is one’s own kids who are involved, but to extend that to others is a big deal and always seems to accrue to the one who is willing to help the less fortunate and less prepared more than the one who is organizing or leading it all.
The thing I liked most about French’s article is that he articulated the difference between obligation and self-fulfillment. I have always thought about doing things for others as a way to be fulfilled. The older I get, the more I realize the only path to true self-fulfillment is by meeting those obligations given to me by God. I will give David French the last word as he explains it beautifully.
In Judeo-Christian tradition, the relevant question relates to our calling, to our duty, not to our ambition and personal fulfillment. For some, our call places us on the battlefield, where a nameless (to us today) young private bleeding on Little Round Top did greater things for his country than I will likely ever do over the entire course of my life. For others, the call places them in a firehouse, at a PTA meeting, in a cubicle, or — yes — sometimes in the highest reaches of government. But for all of us the call remains to faithfulness and care for our families, the people whom we influence the most.
I used to think I could be important, and ordered my life accordingly. Now I realize I’m not and try my best to simply know, understand, and do my duty. Dean Slaughter concludes her article by envisioning the ideal, how in that ideal world “we will properly focus on how we can help all Americans have healthy, happy, productive lives, valuing the people they love as much as the success they seek.” I’d say as spouses and parents we should strive toward different goals, where we focus on fulfilling our deepest and most meaningful obligations — to the God who created us, to those we’ve sworn (through marriage) to love, and to those we’re called to raise from their birth or adoption