She slid into the backseat of the car and there lying open on the seat staring her down were the “50 Most Influential Christian Women.”
Low and behold, her face wasn’t amidst the crowd, her name wasn’t on the list.
Even though she had a few notches in her belt, even though she’d traveled down the Amazon and touched un-reachables with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Across town, another woman wasn’t on it either.
Even though she had allowed herself to be inconvenienced by the needs of others and had divided her bread with the hungry.
And another women.
She didn’t make the list. Even though she had made one little boy with special needs the target of her energy, love, and late night prayers and he took everything she had.
Why would she be on the list? The list makers considered her a nobody.
Thousands of women suffering for their faith all over the world, holding on in the midst of great pain and opposition, they didn’t make the list.
Just 50 made it, chosen by some manmade system of measurement and success.
Still, the list stared Kelly in the face and mocked something inside her.
Like some list is the voice of God or something.
And she says,
“It’s strange how something as simple as a glance at a magazine can expose a host of other issues. Though no one had explicitly said this at any point during my (Christian) career, the underlying message has often been If you want to be significant, you’ve got to have big crowds, big sales, and influential friends. It’s all about who you know and what they think of you.
And I think this is essentially the same message most of us receive, maybe with different benchmarks depending on who we are and what we do.”
She goes on to say, “I don’t think I recognized how much I was still holding to a certain paradigm of what success looked like. How much I was still defining my worth by who wanted or chose me.”
But then Kelly traveled once again down the Amazon River and banked near a village called Small Fish.
The first house she entered had a faded red hammock stretched across the middle of the room, with a 34 year old woman twisted up in it.
“Clarinia smiled shyly, revealing a mouthful of rotting and twisted teeth. Her thin and gnarled body hung in the wool hammock curled in a position I’m not sure it had been out of in years. Her appearance and condition were hard to look at.
What did I understand about being confined to a hammock for three decades, barely able to glimpse the tops of trees or a slice of the sky?
I’d just finished writing a lyric based on a passage from the book of Lamentations, and I thought that, just maybe, singing her this song would grant us access to places we could otherwise not go together.
I strummed and silently hoped that life would reverberate from those simple chords.
“As long as the sun blazes and burns, Your mercies will never fail.
As long as the seedtime and harvest endures, Your mercies will never fail.
And when my sould is downcast within, Your compassions have no end.
In fear or in faith,
I’ll say to my soul
Your mercies will never fail
A promise for ages, an anchor that holds
Your mercies will never fail.
“I was rarely so grateful to be able to sing something, to play something. For so many years I’d pined for big stages and bright lights, and even reached a few, but none seemed as notable as the unfinished wood I was standing on, no audience as sacred as the woman before me.”
When did we stop believing Jesus? When did we start letting other people determine what makes us great, influential, or significant?
When did we start giving voice to lists or stats or ladders or stages or platforms that tell us how to measure our worth?
When did we accept these things as normal and common and valid?
If you are serving, my friend, you are great.
If you are wiping noses and kissing boo-boos, if you are staying with that man who’s hurt you again, if you are sharing what you have in time, energy, affection, money, prayer with those who need a cup of cold water, you, my friend are great.
You don’t need to be on some list to tell you so.
Such insecurity exists in the body of Christ because we in the body measure according to the world’s standards, not Christ’s.
He didn’t leave the matter up for debate.
You can choose how you are going to measure your own success, Mister, but as for me and my house, we’re going to measure it by service.
By how many times we sacrifice to meet the needs of another, not how many times someone applauds.
By how often we go low, not climb high.
And if we all started doing that, the church, the bookstore, the web would be a different place.
Kelly poignantly and beautifully shares how serving the least of these restored her hope in the simplicity of the gospel.
Her book, Wherever the River Runs is just one of many great books Family Christian recommends, for good reason. Today they would like to giveaway a $25 gift card to one Arabah Joy reader.
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