ambition meaning

My Big Ambition: A Life Lived Small

8:54 AMHeather

When I was a little girl, I used to wrap a towel around my head and pretend I was someone famous with long flowing hair. Sometimes, I'd pretend I was Blair from Facts of Life, or a famous singer featured in Teen Beat. Once the television show Star Search came along, I had a whole new avenue for my imaginary path to fame and fortune. Never mind that I could neither sing nor act.
These simple childhood imaginings look different for our children. They are bombarded in real time with the tempting belief that success and meaning translates to things that are big and noticeable. They see and know of peers who have posted a Vine that went viral or have gained thousands of Twitter followers. They watch average people become The Voice or an American Idol or sole Survivor. 

It is troubling that this trend looks very similar both inside and outside the church. Numbers and recognition have become the altars where we bow. Celebrity is no longer something pursued and admired for the world at large, but also for those who sit on church pews.We are living in a culture where doing large things in life, and even big things for God, has been taken to a whole new level. Celebrity spans from holy huddles to screaming masses.

The lines have blurred between how the world defines success and how the Church defines success. Both promote building a following and creating a large platform and measuring success by numbers and quantitative global impact. With this, comes a declining respect for the nobility of roles such as homemaking and service jobs. 

Tedious work and manual labor are not valued as significant endeavors. Women, in particular, must live up to a standard that preaches the ideal of fulfilling multiple roles and many tasks according to Pinterest-worthy criteria.

A precedence is being set for our ambitions. And, we make it our ambition, even as followers of Jesus, to birth wildly popular programs and write best selling books and create viral blog posts.

All with the idea that we can change the world if we can only go big and get noticed.

We are a society enamored with the concept of being world changers. With leaving colossal marks in our stead for generations to come. We are a generation defining our lives and our legacy by shock and awe. We see it in the next generation, through the passion for social justice held by Millennials and Generation Z. Young people are starry eyed about being able to reach the entire world because access to the entire world has literally been brought to their fingertips.

But what if. Just what if ... what if we have this ambition thing all wrong?

What if we can redefine this shock and awe mentality? Because the truth buried beneath the glitz and notoriety is that a life lived diligently in the mundane is what's truly shocking. A life invested in tiny acts of faithful service should receive the most awe. Those who tirelessly pursue loving and knowing Jesus more every day, and those who chase living that love out during average days and normal lives -- these are the ones who understand the call to obedience. 

These are the ones setting the pace for others to follow because they dare to live a humble, small life that is bent low at the feet of a big God. They understand that the stuff of heaven is lived out in the trenches of earth.

How my heart soared with this echoing and refreshing battle cry spoken throughout the IF Gathering this past weekend. This preposterous idea that a heart beating for an upside kingdom does simple and small things, over and again.

In the weeks prior to IF, I had been mulling over the following verse. Out of the blue, it came to mind, and hasn't stopped rolling around my brain since then.

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your 
own business, and to work with your own hands, 
just as we told you, so that your daily life
may win respect of outsiders and so that
you will not be dependent on anybody.
1 Thessalonians 4:11 - 12

Ambition is defined by the app as an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction; or, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment.

Ambition. An earnest desire for some type of achievement. A willingness to strive for it. 

And, so the quiet whispers in this season of my life about proper ambition are gaining volume and beginning to shout loudly and clearly.

What if the BIG thing that God is asking me to do is to be faithful and ambitious about the quiet, the small, the mundane? 

What if I really believed that the grandest, most magnanimous lives celebrated in heaven have nothing to do with people knowing your name, or being well liked, or accomplishing exceptionally huge and noteworthy things?

What if, as Ann Voskamp articulately pointed out, the reality of the upside down kingdom is indeed as upside down as we could imagine? And all the things that get the spotlight and the accolades in this world are completely upside down in the kingdom to come. What if all the ways we measure success and achievement are completely backwards?

What if we could really grasp this and create a new ambition within our hearts? An ambition that correctly and rightly values the things that the Lord considers most valuable.

Effectively living out the gospel has nothing to do with followers or likes or retweets. It rarely has anything to do with worldwide initiatives or global success or going viral. 

Can you imagine the changes in your own life if you were convinced that the thing that matters most to God is the sum value of all the tiny ways we are obedient in everyday moments? 

How our hearts could be settled if we could reset them toward the proper ambition.

Oh that we could see the glory of completing mundane and tedious tasks day after day, for the good of our children and our families and our community. That we could rightly value the magnificent rhythm in a life that says no matter how small my duties, or how tiny my influence, or how insignificant my contributions seem to the world, I will complete them faithfully and with great ambition. 

That we could find joy and purpose in filling sippy cups and changing diapers. That we could find fulfillment in the unseen jobs that though necessary, no one notices. 

That I could see my day as "successful" because I wake up and spend time with the Savior and then answer the call to the mission field that is "between my two feet" (Jill Briscoe).

My ambition. My goal. My striving should be to go unnoticed. So that my Savior might be the only one noticed. That I could master the ability to be quiet in my life, not demanding attention, and doing my own work with zeal.

That we might all do small things well. Day after day after day. Prepare the meals. Clean the house. Answer the phones. Run the copies for the boss. Tend to the service issues from disgruntled customers. Wait the tables, manage the cash register. 

With a love spilling over to everyone we meet. And, day after day, be faithful and ambitious about every tiny thing, understanding that these are the big things in God's economy.

Instead of seeking fame and fortune and accolades, that we would make it our mission every day to love others so well that they love Jesus more. 

Lord, help me to bring the food to the hurting, hold the hand of the grieving, serve the needy and poor, text and email and check-in on friends, and always, always, always storm the Throne Room of heaven in the powerful ministry of prayer for the people around me. 

Help me to make it my big ambition to live my life in the small.
Help me to make time in my daily routine to sit in the presence of God, that my face may be radiant to all I encounter. 

I will remember the tedious work of Noah, who spent decades building an ark in a wicked world that had never experienced rain. I will remember that before the flood and before the rainbow and before the most noted experience of Noah's life, there was a day-after-day grind. There was a day-by-day choice to be obedient to the hard work that was surely mocked and misunderstood.

I will remember the days before Goliath. When David was the runt of the clan, tasked to guide dirty sheep around the hillside. I will remember that before he was the celebrated King David, and before he was sung about as the one who killed tens of thousands, he was a shepherd boy. He roamed around in the company of his herds, singing songs to God and talking to his Maker. 

I will remember that intentionally dwelling in God's presence doing the work that I am tasked to do is all part of the Kingdom work. And that makes it worthwhile. That makes it valuable. That makes it something about which to be ambitious. The truth is, the tedium may never change. Or it might be preparing me for things yet to come. Either way, I will lean into the work and leave the rest to God.

I will choose to remember, on the days that I feel no one sees me and my work doesn't matter -- I will remember Keturah. Though Sarah is the wife of Abraham most noted and remembered, Keturah was the wife that came after Sarah's death. And she was the mother to a brood of men who bore generations of descendants, as well.

I won't forget in the years where I feel captive, that it was 400 years of slavery for the Israelites before the Red Sea Road. I will tell my restless soul that in these hard seasons and in these days of trial, deliverance is on the way. For the Deliverer came for me. 

I will preach the truth to my wandering heart that though the desert lasted 40 years, God provided manna and quail and their shoes did not even wear out . I will declare and believe that every dusty step in the wilderness is leading to a Promised Land that has no end. 

And I will wrestle through it and struggle on to right what is wrong. To remind myself that ambition should not be for followers or notice or awards or treasures. Because I am the daughter of the King. And my Savior changed the entire world and all of history by coming to serve. 

He was hated and despised and a man of great sorrow. He was misunderstood and rejected. And it was exactly the way it was meant to be. 

To come to serve. To love to death. To endure and press on and to count his ambitions as his father defined them.

Which was simply to do his Father's will. To love radically. To serve others. To invest specifically in 12 men. To be killed. To be forsaken. In order to light the world on fire with the hope for all mankind. 

The most noteworthy person in human history set an unfathomable precedent when it comes to ambition. For he simply was faithful, minute-by-minute, to choose to do the Father's work that was right in front of him to accomplish. All for the glory due to God alone.

So let's quit making it so complicated.

Sit. Serve. Pray. Study the Father's words. Be faithful. Love well. Love others. 

Because the BIG thing that God is calling everyone to do is to be ambitious and faithful about the quiet work, the small tasks, and the mundane callings. 

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