The importance of the insignificant

The most critical element in the practice of theatrical magic is the art of misdirection: the ability to direct your audience’s attention towards one thing so that they don’t see what is really important. This is why, if you’ve ever had the chance to listen to a magician explain his tricks, you often feel utterly embarrassed at not having caught it in the act–because more often than not, there were no fancy tricks or false compartments; your attention was simply directed elsewhere.

In a culture in which attention has become our most valuable resource, it’s easy to get misdirected. Our money, energy, and time go towards whatever can catch us the quickest and hold us the longest. This applies not just to advertising, the news, and social media, but to our schooling, careers, and relationships. We’re driven by where we choose to invest our attention, and everyone and everything wants a share in the stock.

There are magicians all around us, holding up the ball and saying, “Look at this ball!” as he secretly slips another into his pocket while your eyes are focused elsewhere. In a world where distraction is rarely farther than our fingertips, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important: the ball that goes into the pocket.

I recently finished reading Anonymous by Alicia Britt Chole, in which she writes about the importance of hidden years and anonymous seasons. While we see Jesus at his birth, and once when he’s twelve, we don’t encounter him again in Scripture until sometime in his early to mid-thirties. What happened during those unrecorded, unapplauded years? Chole doesn’t speculate beyond the obvious: God was preparing him for what was to come. Otherwise, why not begin his ministry at eighteen or twenty? No, that time was spent invested.

And for us, the hidden things are not inherently unvaluable; in fact, they are invaluable. Unapplauded does not mean unproductive; unrecorded does not mean insignificant. Chole actually gives us a mathematical formula to describe the phenomenon. She calls it the iceberg equation:

10% visible + 90% invisible = an indestructible life

You want your life to be indestructible? You want your impact to be indelible, your legacy to be untarnishable, your imprint to be uneraseable? Then buckle up for several seasons of anonymity–of humility, invisibility, and insignificance.

The world is misdirecting our attention toward the unimportant: the applause that fades in seconds, the profitable career that eats your most valuable years, the status obtained by striving to fit a mold. Culture values busyness, profit, and results, where God gives  quietness, contentment, and growth.

Chole writes about the maple tree, whose leaves are stripped for winter: not to steal her beauty, but to prepare her for the coming season, in which care for those leaves would steal nutrients from where they are needed to sustain her. Instead, those resources can be redirected toward strengthening her foundation and spreading her branches to bear the snow without breaking.

Andy Stanley wrote, “It is our direction, not our intention, that determines our destination.” I’m currently at a turning point, a transitional season: the closing of one chapter and the opening of a new one. Amidst all the chaos involved in that, I’ve been challenged to check my direction. Am I moving forward, or just moving? 

I’m realizing that it’s not just the few big decisions, but the thousand little daily ones that make up who I really am. I am right now becoming who I will be; my prayer is that that is someone worth the effort.



Published by

Breanna Joy

Once upon a time, in a far-away land, there was born one chill wintry day a lass who would come to be called Bre. She grew up whiling away the time upon myriad pursuits that would one day shift from pursuits to passions; creative, curious, and mischievous, she loved to read whatever she could manage to get her hands on (in particular novels, those of plot complex, world intriguing, and characters remarkable) — and read she did! She devoured words with so fierce a joy that she grew skillful in wielding such words as her own — story, journal, article, post and poem alike. For other arts, she also nurtured admiration. She loved in her heart the beauteous sound of music and the power it held over emotion and spirit. And she would work with her own hands to sketch and to paint and to correct and to create. One of her deepest passions was the stage, where she would take on a character as if an article of clothing, and live and breathe in another’s skin. In addition, the stories of times past and cultures distant enraptured her fascination, and she dreamed of one day venturing to explore these unknown lands. But these, these were nothing to the true heart of her soul. She found for herself a motley band of what can only be called friends–though some of whom were, truth be told, far more than that to her. They changed her being and resided in her heart. And so she lived, and loved, and dreamt. She dreamt of adventure and beauty and song and story and love and laughter. But far beyond anything else, did she strive with love toward her God. For this was her own great quest, or, if you will, her part in His own great story: to love those in the world, as He had loved her, when she had not loved Him–indeed, when she had turned from Him, hid from Him, rejected Him and ignored Him–He loved her enough to die for her. And so, because of this great love that now burned like a fire inside of her, a blazing beacon, she strove for a life lived in a beautiful harmony to Him who gave her a second chance. As she grew, she became confused, and doubting, and weak, and afraid, and unclean, and she would forget, and go to the world that was pressing at her to give in, in an attempt to satisfy her emptiness, though it would always leave her wanting. But always she would return, and be whole and filled again, made complete and beautiful in her soul. Storms would come and battles would rise; she would be tried and tested in many ways, and even so the story continues, but know ye this–He held her and led her all her days, and in the end, He would bring her to His own happily ever after.

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