The Freedom of Being A Nobody

Repeat after me: I am a beautiful snowflake. I am a unique individual. There is no one else like me. I am significant. I am important to the world. I have important things to offer the world.

This is kind thing we hear everyday, right? If you watch Sesame Street for more than three minutes you’ll hear some version of the above. An affirmation of self-worth. An affirmation of importance. An affirmation of uniqueness. We’re constantly being told how valuable we are, and how much we have to offer the world. And social media isn’t helping us either. Everyone, myself included, feels like they need to keep updating their status. It’s like we feel this constant compulsion to say, “Hey, hey! I’m still here, and I’m still really important!” It makes us feel good when people “like” or retweet our status updates.

To be honest, I’m getting kind of tired of trying to remind the world that I’m important. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer here. We are important in God’s eyes. He created us in his image, which gives us value in his eyes. My sense of self-worth should come from the fact that God made me, saved me, and adopted me.

But so often my sense of self-worth comes from what other people think about me. How many people liked my status update? How many people complimented me on my sermon? Do people think I’m doing the right thing by homeschooling my kids? Should I be eating more organic food and investigating various vaccinations? What did [insert person] think of my worship leading, or small group leading, or prayer meeting leading? It’s exhausting to keep feeding my need for the approval of others. It takes a lot of work to maintain a cool persona without looking like I’m trying too hard to be cool.

So what’s the alternative? To embrace the freedom of being a nobody.

As I read Psalm 90 this morning, I was reminded that, in the grand scheme of things, I’m a nobody. Psalm 90:3-4 says:

You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.

In the grand scheme of things, my life is dust. A vapor. A mist that quickly passes. A flicker of a blip on the radar of eternity. Billions of people have come and gone before me, most of them unknown by the rest of the world. Billions will probably come after me, going from birth to death in relative obscurity.

Compared the eternal God, I am a nobody. Compared to the great God who reigns over all the nations, I am insignificant. In fact, everyone is insignifcant. Everyone is a nobody. And that’s a wonderful thing! If everyone is a nobody, I can quit comparing myself to other people. I can quit trying to be the king of the nobodies. I don’t need the approval of others to feel good about myself.

My approval rating is rooted squarely in God. It’s not rooted in whether or not people notice me. It’s not determined by whether or not people will remember me. Embracing “nobodiness” is a really freeing thing. I’m free to simply serve the Lord, without caring if people approve of me. I’m free to embrace the lowly servant tasks that nobody notices. I’m free to parent according to my God-given convictions, and to homeschool/public school/private school/unschool. When I embrace the magnificent greatness of God, I’m free to quit caring about my standing with other people.

So let’s all be nobodies together. Let delight in the freedom that comes from not caring what others think. Let’s remember that we are dust, and that God is the only “somebody”.

Comments

  1. Jennifer Van Wieren says

    I agree with this in not caring about what others think about us because it is incredibly hard and I struggle with this. However, I don’t believe this is how God sees us as his children. Also, I think that it is very healthy and motivating to see yourself as a somebody. Our personality and unique talents (all of our make up and how we are molded and shaped, even by the specific bad that has happened, has a sovereign and divine purpose and personal love touch specifically and especially from God. Wow, knowing that I can serve God in a special and a unique way motivates me to get up out of bed. How can God use me…me? I believe you can still be humble but why lower the ceiling on how God can use specific you, molded and shaped for a purpose? Why can’t we use this as a tool to use, exploring and encouraging others to find specifics in themselves that God placed in them to be used for his glory. I want to raise my children to not care what others think about them but I am even more concerned with them seeing themselves the way God sees them…wonderfully made to glorify him in the specific ways that they can…open to all possible adventures and callings. When I see my son Ben I see that he has the eye of an artist…when he fails at spelling, I remind him of the gift of art that God has given him…the way he sees Gods world is special. I say to him, “Ben, in what way do you think God can use your gift of art? How can we refine it for him?”. I don’t want to waste his time rinding him that he is a nobody because, for Ben, I see that he feels it already. He naturally feels his sin as he has the Holy Spirit in him. He apologizes for struggling with sitting down to work on spelling with me. When he was benched for the whole basketball game last night except for a couple of minutes of play…i saw his desire to serve God and enjoy his creation but he is not that great at it. the coach wanted to win. However, his heart soars when we discuss his art and what verse he is going to paint out this year for the art competition. This makes me wonder…how many Bens are out there with hidden talents I can help them pull out and use? What fire can be kindled and in turn who can be tech was for Christ in the midst of it? (Typing on a phone so please excuse typos)

    • Stephen Altrogge says

      This is a really good nuance/counter to what I'm saying. I totally agree that we should help our kids/friends/people around us see how God has created them uniquely. With Ben, I wouldn't want to tell him that he was a nobody. He has been created in God's image, and has been given special gifts from God, like art.

      I guess what I would say, is that I wouldn't want Ben to find his identity in his failure at sports, or at his success in art. When Ben doesn't play well in sports, he can be reminded that God loves him for who he is, not because of his athletic ability. When Ben does well in art, he can be reminded that God gave him a wonderful gift, and that he should use that gift to honor the Lord.

      Does that make sense? I sort of feel like I'm rambling. What I'm trying to get at is that our identity is not rooted in the approval of others. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't use our gifts. It simply means that we should find our security in the praise or rejection of others.

  2. Rachel McC says

    "It makes us feel good when people “like” or retweet our status updates." I guess it feeds my pride & makes me feel idolized or extraordinarily smart…stuff that belongs to God. Thanks for an excellent post, Stephen, (said at the risk of tempting your pride, but since I'm a nobody, it shouldn't count too much! :)

    • Rachel McC says

      correction…I don't guess, I KNOW it can feed my pride and I really don't want that. The reason I wanted to reply to this post in the first place is because it matched up with a conversation I had yesterday with someone about a specific time when God used hard times in my teen years to strengthen my character & help me "not care" so deeply about others' approvals. And since you wrote it so well, I wanted to encourage you that God is using your blog.

  3. Jeannie R. says

    Great insight. Most of us are far too worried about pleasing others instead of pleasing God. Your remarks reminded me of a book titled "When People Are Big And God Is Small" by Edward T. Welch.

  4. says

    Yes! Jesus, the ultimate Someone, made Himself a nobody, so that we could become somebodies to God! Embrace being a nobody because that is the path of Jesus, but know that God counts you as a valuable somebody because of His Son.

    Good stuff!

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