“Look at that road sign for the next exit. Iota! Why would you name a town that? A speck? A tiny bit? Don’t they have any feelings of importance?”
“Apparently not one iota,” my husband laughed.
I looked up that Louisiana town and found out it had a population of less than 2,000. Okay, maybe it was a tiny town, but certainly the people in that town shouldn’t feel unimportant, insignificant.
A character in the popular series Downton Abbey once chided a woman: “Why would you say, ‘It’s only me’? I always feel that greeting betrays such a lack of self worth.”
It’s only … I’m only … I’m the only … all sound so disheartening. We see times in the Bible when people felt this way. Elijah complained to God that he was all alone. He was the only one left who honored and believed in the One True God. Of course the Lord pointed out that this was far from the truth. Seven thousand others hadn’t turned away from the Lord to worship Baal (1 Kings 19:13,18).
Claiming “I’m only” has its advantages though, especially when you’re trying to avoid a conflict. When David was running for his life, pursued by Saul, he reminds the king of his greatness and David’s insignificance. David says he is beneath Saul’s concern or attention. Why should the mighty King of Israel pursue and search for a single insignificant flea? (1 Samuel 26:20)
Sometimes we think we are only one person. We wonder what influence one person, one vote, one voice can actually be. Yet one person can be important if he or she is the only one who can make a difference.
When Joseph was in prison in Egypt he interpreted two dreams. He counted on that one person, the chief cupbearer, to mention him to Pharaoh when he was restored to the palace. This person was the only one who could change Joseph’s life, and yet the man forgot to remember for two long years (Genesis 40:23).
Some people get puffed up with their importance when they consider their position. It may be a boss, a chairman or a director. It may be a parent who is unwilling to give a child some task. They think they are the only one who can do it right. They are responsible, so they’d better be the one to do the job. Sometimes we truly are indispensable, but often it’s only our own estimation of our worth, thinking we are the one and only. And that can stand in the way of someone else’s chance to grow, to succeed, to shine.
I always think of a song from the old TV show Cheers. “You wanna be where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came.” Now certainly a small business, church, school, and of course family doesn’t have trouble knowing names of their members, students, or employees.
But it’s the second part, “they’re always glad you came,” that reminds us not to treat one other as “only.” How dejecting it is to hear, “Oh, it’s only you.” Suddenly your self worth slides down to your toes.
How much more rewarding to hear someone exclaim, “Oh, it’s you!” Maybe not with words every time, but with an attitude of genuine appreciation for someone’s unique presence or contribution.
Someone once said upon meeting the great golfer Arnold Palmer that it was like he was waiting all day just to speak with you. How wonderful it would be to lead like that. Acknowledging people with a true spirit of inclusion and regard. Giving full attention to who is in front of you at the moment. As if they were the only one that mattered.
Jesus sees each of us as His only… His precious… the one whose heart He holds in His strong, protective hand. He gives us His full attention as if we were the only ones that mattered. Because we are!
He’s also the One and Only. My Lord Jesus was the only One who could do it: save me from certain death and eternal separation from His Father. And if I were the only person in the whole world, He still would have come to save me.
Because He knows my name. And I’m so very glad He came!
Leaving my guilt at the cross,
First published at Lead Like Jesus February 2021