It was about six months ago that I found myself crying in the toilets in Sainsbury’s. Needless to say, it wasn’t the highlight of my life. (Nor was it the first time I had found myself crying in a toilet cubicle, but those times may be for other blog posts.) It’d been a tough day in a tough week in a tough term at a tough job. I’d gone to Sainsbury’s as I had some time to kill and I wanted to find some distractions, but a pervasive sense of hopelessness was gnawing at me. So I went to the loo and shed a few tears.
I wasn’t quite sure what had made me feel so rubbish. Sure, it had been a difficult day but I’ve survived many of those without problems. There were plenty of reasons why I could have been crying but I’ve never been worked up about them before. The more I reflected the more I realised what it was. It was something a student had said to me.
This student is the nicest, sweetest, most polite student you will ever meet… on a good day. On other days he is, well, the opposite. That day was a bit mixed and this student had decided he was being unfairly treated and the world was against him. He ranted that no-one cared.
“Do you think that I don’t care?” I asked him.
“No, you care,” he replied, his back to me. “But you’re only one person. What difference will you make?”
That was a direct hit. I was just one person. What difference could I possibly make?
I’m a teacher, which naturally means I see myself as some sort of martyr. I know that I have a pathological need to be needed. I’m just your typical cliché; I became a teacher “to make a difference” (and also because God told me too but that’s another story). So to have this small twelve year old tell you that the situation is hopeless and on your own you can’t do nothing is degrading and hurtful. It was a kick in the teeth. My pride was dented, my martyrdom was made hollow and worthless. I was a nobody.
But he was absolutely right, on my own I am nobody. I cannot make a difference. And there is something bizarrely liberating in that. The pressure’s off. The burden of responsibility is not on my shoulders.
However, what I love when reading the Bible is how God is the God of the nobodies. So many people in the Bible should have passed through history anonymously. There was nothing special about them. Abraham was a childless pensioner travelling through the ancient Middle-East. David was a shepherd, the last born in an unknown family in a little known village. Mary was simply another teenager engaged to another carpenter in another Jewish town. None of these people were remarkable. None of them could have made a difference on their own.
And yet, Abraham is the patriarch of Christianity; David was a famous king who wrote large portions of the Bible; Mary gave birth to the Son of God. With God, these nobodies became history makers and world changers. They are revered and respected; they have films and sermons and books made about them. Art galleries across the world have paintings or statutes of them. God lifted the humble and raised them up.
And therefore I am quite happy with my identity as a nobody. I’m a nobody who happens to know the God of the Universe.
My worth is not based on the difference I can make or my accomplishments. It’s not based on how popular or how rich I am. My worth is based that I happen to be a nobody that has been chosen by God. It doesn’t matter if I fall at everything or if no-one likes me or if my bank-account is in the red. God loves me and he has saved me. And because of that I can stop despairing and self-pitying and having a cry in a supermarket loo. Instead, I can know that, whatever happens, I have a God that loves and values me.
So next time someone puts my identity into doubt, this is what I will tell them:
I am a coheir of the throne above all thrones, a Royal Priest in the Heavenly Temple, an ambassador for the Eternal Kingdom, a servant of the Lord of Lords, a soldier in the Angel Armies.
I am a child of God.
Lord God, thank you that through the redemption I have received through the death of Jesus I have been given a new identity. You love me and you see me as significant. You know me by name and the number of hairs I have on my head. I thank you that you give me strength and worth and talents and gifts. May I remain humble, knowing that it is only because of your love for me that I am made whole. I am no better than anyone else. Let my only boast be of you: the God of the nobody.
- Where is the most disheartening/public place you’ve cried?
- What or who is your sense of worth based on?
- What would it mean to accept that on your own you are nobody?
- What would it mean to find your value in Jesus?