For No One

NOTE: This post heavily focuses on God, His impact on my life, and living according to the Bible.

When I talk to my husband about embarking on freelance writing, he often asks me: "What do you define success as?"

Hmm. Good question.

My responses vary:

"It’s educating others and making a difference in other people’s lives."
"Bringing in a decent income."
"Doing what I love to do every day."

But if I’m honest with myself, I define success as writing a brilliant piece, receiving recognition, being lavished with laud and praise over it, and winning a slew of writing and/or journalism awards. I’ve done it in the past. I’d like to do it all over again.

Back in my senior year of college, I won an award as the best student print journalism writer on Long Island. I beat out I-don’t-know-how-many other college students on an island that boasts a population of 2.8 million (as of the 2000 census). Sure, it was just college but it opened my eyes and made me feel as though I had the potential to do that on a bigger scale.

Then comes Epic Fail. (Link provided for your amusement.)

Depression swooped in and carried me off into Lexapro land. I suppose I’ve never recovered creatively. The ambitious part of myself needs to come to terms with the fact that:

  • I will never win a Pulitzer Prize
  • I’ll never have a book that hits the New York Times Bestseller list
  • I’ll never have a major publisher pick up any book that I write
  • I’ll never work as an editor at a magazine
  • I’ll never be an expert in anything.

I’m not trying to be negative; I’m being real. I need to face the facts that I’m not all that great and never will be.

On the flip side, I significantly underestimate myself.

My husband often gets irritated with me because I often say, "I don’t have an impact on anybody’s life." With some annoyance and pain in his voice, he’ll respond, "What about me? What about the impact you’ve had in my life? Why don’t I matter?"

To which I’ll respond, "You do." Then my idealistic self goes on, "But I want to reach the world. I want to make a difference in other people’s lives beyond my family and friends. I want to make a lasting impact on the world."

Why is it more important to me to affect people’s lives who don’t know or care about me rather than the people who do? The same people I have had an impact on are the same people who "care" about me. Why isn’t that enough for me?

I attend a Women’s Bible Study that’s held each Wednesday and we’re reading a book called Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges. It’s a good book, but I don’t like it.

It’s not exactly the Joel Osteen "feel good" kind of book.
It’s a convicting book: it steps on toes and makes you feel squeamish
and uncomfortable. The book calls Christians to recognize the sins that
they overlook, i.e., gossip, slander, pride, greed, selfishness, being judgmental, etc.

One of the sins Bridges mentions is wanting recognition. I’ve discussed this with a couple of Christians and they think he goes overboard on some of the sins. Bridges bases his conclusion on Luke 17:10:

So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’"

So if wanting recognition from other people is a sin (debatable among Christians), what am I left with?

For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. — Hebrews 6:10

As a Christian, all the things I do shouldn’t be primarily for other people, they should be done for God. This is a tough pill to swallow. It’s tough to live for a Supreme Being who I’ve never met in person and have never seen face-to-face. But my belief in Him is the only thing that’s kept me alive. I have to focus on that and keep going. If I believe that He’s the one who’s kept me alive, I owe Him my life. He’s never called me on the phone, texted me, or sent me an e-mail. Sure, I have His "love letter" to me but "wasn’t that written, like, ages ago?" Is it still relevant?

Like any normal person, I have my doubts. But then I think about the intricately designed details of my life, and I know it’s not "random" how my husband and I met each other. The people I’m friends with are not "random" and the people I work with are not "random." Everyone in my life impacts me in some way and I do the same for them. (Bringing a smile to their faces is definite evidence of that!)

What really matters — and it’s tough for me to come to grips with — is that everything I do has to be for God. This blog I write has to glorify God and accomplish His purposes in whatever way He designs. The way I treat my family and other people has to glorify God and exhibit Christ-like qualities.

Does it really matter whether I have a New York Times Bestseller? No. Do I want one? Yes, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. Does it matter whether I have a worldwide impact? No. Would I like to? Yes, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. So what does matter?

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." — Matthew 22:37-40

If that’s all I accomplish in this life, "I have only done what was my duty."

Mood Rating: 7.5

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12 Comments

  1. Gianna said,

    July 21, 2008 at 8:57 am

    Hi sweet Marissa,
    I struggle with all the same stuff, but I’m 43 so I have to come to grips with the reality that chances are I’ll not have broad impact in an even greater way.
    I actually have not given up entirely…I think we may have grandiose ambitions, but when there are so many people who do achieve this kind of “success.” It’s not difficult to want these things. Especially when we’re bright and did very well in school…
    I agree with you absolutely that to let go of the desire to achieve recognition is extremely important. It’s utterly necessary to a happy life…
    On the other hand, do let go of the desire and need, but you know what, it’s not over until it’s over and we don’t know what God has planned for us.
    The most important thing is being humble in the moment…because with an attitude of needing this kind of recognition we are full of hubris waiting to happen. If we let go then when the recognition comes we remain humble and not full of pride.
    and if it doesn’t come we are then okay too, impacting those we love and the people we touch in our lives, which if we do that successfully is a profoundly important thing.
    I guess I sense resignation in your post. I’m not sure I’m right, I may be wrong. But resignation is NOT acceptance, and acceptance is what will bring you peace. But acceptance only demands that your accept your present situation and let go of fantasies. It does not determine your future.

  2. Marissa said,

    July 21, 2008 at 9:30 am

    Hey Gianna,
    Thanks for the comment. It was incredibly encouraging. I do struggle with a ton of things. Like I have an average of 107 visitors a day and 1-2 comments on some of my posts. I really should be thankful I have commenters at all but my competitive nature gets in the way and I get jealous when I see others with 10-15 comments. It really shouldn’t matter but it’s sometimes discouraging to me.
    Yeah, there’s some resignation in my post. In a way, I’m partially giving up. But since it’s something I struggle with continually, I don’t think it’ll go away completely.

  3. July 21, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Honey, you DO make a difference in the world. Just look at your blog stats, at how many people from around the world read what you write, and how honest you are. That, to me, is definitely glorifying God. He does not want us “putting on airs”. Sure, we all want the pat on the back, the awards, the recognition.
    The recognition I want, and I’m sure you want, too, is to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
    Love ya, dear… you are important, and you do make a difference in my life.

  4. Marissa said,

    July 21, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Thanks, Michelle!

  5. claudia said,

    July 21, 2008 at 10:45 am

    For what it’s worth, I love your style, the way you write.
    And honestly, I can easily see myself buying a book, fiction or non fiction, by you.
    Reading your blog helps me out sometimes, during my tough hours…
    (I also found another blog- it’s quite new, but I think it’s good-
    http://anxiousangst.blogspot.com/)
    Please keep the posts coming!!!

  6. Marissa said,

    July 21, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Thank you, Claudia! I’ll be sure to read it. It looks interesting.

  7. Gianna said,

    July 21, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    you make a difference in my life too, to echo Michelle!
    Love to you.

  8. Greybeard said,

    July 21, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    You are young and talented. There’s absolutely no telling what’ll happen to or for you down the road.

  9. Jessie said,

    July 23, 2008 at 1:29 am

    I enjoy your posts. I don’t always comment because I read off my feed on apple mail. So just know that people do appreciate your writing, but not everyone reads off the blogsite.

  10. July 23, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    Good to know. Thanks for giving me some insight, Jessie.

  11. Nancie said,

    July 25, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    Dear sweet Marissa,
    You do make an impact in many people’s life. You are a special child of God and a great blessing to many. I am greatly blessed by your friendship, prayers and encouragements!
    I am encouraged by your love for God and faith in Him. It can be very difficult and challenging living in this competitive world. Thank God that He values whatever we do for Him even if it is not recognized by anyone else. May God bless your labours of love in many wonderful ways.
    Matthew 22 guides me through my relationship with God and others too. Thanks for sharing your heart with us. Take care and have a blessed weekends!
    With love and prayers,
    Nancie

  12. Marissa said,

    July 28, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Thanks, Nancie!


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