Leaning into Our Call to Greatness
Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. — Mark 14:3
Mary not only offered God her opportunity for greatness — that jar she carried around her neck — she broke it open. There was no going back. She was all in, and the oil was no longer hers for safekeeping. Mary was now Mary without the oil’s musk that had marked her.
In an instant, what had signified security and recognition spilled through her fingers. Those dreams of moving comfortably into old age with financial assurance, and perhaps even thoughts of clothing herself in the finest linens, all fell away as she looked at Him. She was close enough to see the lines on His face. He was beautiful and powerful and safe.
Mary probably hadn’t told a soul about this ahead of time. Perhaps she hadn’t planned this moment at all. If she had and had told others about it, it’s likely they tried to talk her out of it. But they didn’t yet know what she knew — that when she got near to Jesus, the glow of everything and everyone else dimmed. When she got near to this Man, her life became great. He reveled in her story and in her participation in His story: this was greatness.
There are two stories in a person — the visible story and the invisible story.
To Jesus, Mary’s greatness was revealed in the very act that the onlookers called foolish. And in this weakened, wasted greatness, she got closer to Him — she participated in His story — and she grew.
Times have shifted. In this digital age, we might well wonder, “If it wasn’t posted on social media, did it really happen?” We can’t live for the beauty of the hidden life while feeding on likes and comments. As long as we don’t make big impact synonymous with greatness, there’s nothing wrong with it. But the unintended consequence may be that we think that anything that isn’t big and observable isn’t great, which renders the rest of life a waiting room. Wasted time. When we live a life of constantly reaching for the next big thing, we miss the greatness God is calling us to right here, right now. In the small, the ordinary, the hidden moments. The white space.
If the chief end of every human being is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, shouldn’t that glory and enjoyment be able to happen when no one is looking? Within the times when we don’t seem to be influencing the world at all, the moments when we pour ourselves out at Jesus’ feet?
Great kingdom impact comes not just from actions that make a dramatic and observable impact but from all the accumulated moments we spend looking at God, bringing Him glory in private, and letting Him shape our insides.
We aren’t forfeiting outward impact for private devotion to God. We are submitting to the understanding that life in God isn’t about God’s needing us to do His work for Him or to do it under our own power. It is instead about a glory we can’t always measure. It is the work that happens beneath the surface, deep in the soil of our hearts, that in time produces a great harvest of fruit and growth.
Jesus tells us,
But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. — Matthew 13:23 NIV
Yes, I am made to be great. I am made to produce fruit and to bring God glory. So are you. And that desire for greatness can help me start a new nonprofit or invest more in my marriage or adopt a child. Or prompt me to empty out my savings or open a room of my house to someone in need.
But later, when the nonprofit seed cash has evaporated, I’m going to need roots. When the person I’ve invited into my home leaves in the night and takes my wallet, I’m going to need roots. When the needs of a sick child feel like too much at three in the morning, or the hospital bills exceed my bank balance, I’m going to need roots.
Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. — Matthew 13:5-6 NIV
In the context of greatness, we might say that this rocky-place seed accomplished something, at least. But without sinking deep roots into nutrient-dense soil — intimacy with God — it couldn’t continue to grow and bear fruit.
But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. — Matthew 13:21 NIV
Greatness begins underground. In secret. I have to sink my roots deep in the knowledge of God’s love to grow branches that bear fruit in and out of season.
No one may notice if you exchange your earbuds and workout music for desperate whispers to God while you pound it out on the treadmill. No one except Him.
And your roots sink deep.
No one may notice if you curl up with your journal and spend time with God on the back porch before sticky-fingered children, just off the school bus, run clamoring through the front door.
But your roots sink deep.
No one may notice if you exchange your smartphone for His Word on your bedside table and check in with Him before checking email every morning.
Here, your roots sink deep.
No one may notice if you pray fiercely and secretly for a friend’s ministry to grow, even though you crave the attention she is getting.
Your roots sink deep again.
No one may notice if you turn down a business opportunity in order to spend more quiet hours with God, or if you say no to an opportunity to serve someone in need because you ask Him and He whispers, “I have another plan to meet that need.”
Our growing root system reaches and creeps and drinks, deeply, of a greatness that the world can’t measure, a greatness that even some within the Christian community might not recognize or understand. But the long-term greatness of a tree is always found in the depth and health of its roots.
Excerpted with permission from Unseen by Sara Hagerty, copyright Sara Hagerty.
* * *
The world longs for greatness and deep inside we believers know that we were created for greatness… but not the world’s kind. Jesus’ greatness is an inverse kind. His is an upside-down Kingdom where poured out equals filled and humility is powerful. No one may notice when we bend our knee to Him, but He will, and therein we will grow and become like Mary — offering the best we have to our Jesus! Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We would love to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full