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In the last few days I have had the remarkable pleasure, and privilege, to be in Rome and see the almost 2000-year-old Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Arch of Titus. I stood where Paul discussed the new philosophy of THE WAY in the Athenian Agora. I walked through vast and empty villas, theatres, restaurants, and markets where, in 79 AD, 26,000 lives were snuffed out by Vesuvius (2000 in Pompeii alone). I saw the green-blue Mediterranean as I looked down on the caldera from high above in windy Santorini, Greece. I stood silent in the house where Mary, Jesus’ mother, lived out the end of her days, I watched a lone figure place flowers on the grave of John, Jesus’ cousin who took Mary into his home. And I walked the ancient, marble streets of Ephesus (where, once again, the memory of Paul came to mind…he visited there, lived for 3 years there, and confronted paganism there) to the theatre (which could accommodate 10% of the population: 24,000) where the great argument between the leaders of THE WAY and the worshippers of ARTEMIS took place.

All this in around 14 days. And you know what I felt? Aside from grateful, privileged, and awed…I felt overwhelmingly insignificant.


I was, in every one of those moments, only a drop of water in the great turquoise sea of time. I was flooded by the thought of all the feet that had walked the ancient streets of Rome, Pompeii, Athens, and Ephesus. I was stunned…knowing that I have heard of these cities all my life, I had quoted from the great men and women who lived then and there. I stood where Julius Caesar was assassinated, not only thinking about that event, but also how it was significant enough to be captured in great artists, like Vincenzo Camuccini (“The Assassination of Julius Caesar”) and writers, like Shakespeare (“Julius Caesar”).

And when I stood at the grave of my favorite of the gospel writers, John, I felt that he was not only more “real”, but a friend.

And again, I felt, in all that great history…insignificant.

“INSIGNIFICANT” (Merriam-Webster): lacking weight, position, or influence…not worth considering…unimportant. 

Did all the great people whose shadows are left in these places of rich history feel the same way? After all, they were just people, like me. Did any of them think their words or actions would not only be spoken of thousands of years later, but that these places, given weight by their presence, would become almost sacred to the millions who visit daily? Probably not.

I could stand still in the unseen corner of this all, saying to myself, “No matter how great I imagine that I am, I’m not worth considering…in light of all the world’s greatness and history.

That is a harsh, but not necessarily a bad, lesson. We all are, after all, members of a collective, a community. OUR God reminds us (through Paul, especially) that each of us is unique, with talents and gifts to offer to the community…for the benefit of the community. I AM insignificant when set next to the entire Community of Faith. It’s not ever just about me.

The wave of history and greatness I experienced (not even mentioning the food, the art, the music, the people along the way) taught me some good, very good, lessons about life.

We cannot live with what I would call the “Intention of Significant Destiny” or, in other words, living so that one-thousand years from now people will know who we are and call us “great.” Our Teacher/King tells us that it is always about “today”, loving others today, trusting His Father today, living the “embarrassingly extravagant life (zoe)” today! “Don’t worry about tomorrow…” He says, when it comes to wondering how we will survive…but also in the greater sense: the purpose of our lives is not to write ourselves as the leading role in the story of history…but to concentrate on leading a life that serves the people of today. 

And if my God says, “You are significant to me.” That is enough. Human history often forgets, often confuses, often polishes, the actual “truth (aletheia)” of the moment…time muddies, it infrequently clarifies. But the King of Universe, and the author of time’s story, believes in me…sometimes more than I believe in Him. 

My significance, I realized…standing at the top of a peak in Santorini, in Mary’s house and John’s tomb in Ephesus, at the Roman Colosseum, in the Athenian Agora, and in the “tomb” of Pompeii…is based entirely upon what my Creator believes about me…whether I FEEL it or not.  As for the rest…

…time will tell.