By Susan Riffe
Tears welled up in my eyes as I realized that tragedy had struck’¦I was going to make a B rather than an A. I was 23 years old, and the class was Advanced Accounting during the MBA program at Baylor. The professor graciously handed me a Kleenex. This was a tragedy for me because I worked very, very hard to make all As. As that point in my life, my significance depended on what I accomplished not only in the classroom, but in leadership positions in student organizations as well.
As a professor in the accounting department at SMU, I see students all around me also striving for significance in their lives. Some students focus on academic achievement as indicated by a high grade point average. Many will only feel fulfilled when they land that prestigious, high-paying job. Others seek recognition that comes from being an officer in an organization. Numerous students feel significant only if they are accepted by certain peers and have a full social schedule. While all of these activities can be good, when a person’s self image depends on these things, it leads to disaster. What happens when you get a C rather than an A? What if you receive many rejection letters, but no job offers? What happens when the phone stops ringing? This hollow perspective on life leads to tremendous pressure to keep on succeeding. Furthermore, no accomplishment is ever as completely fulfilling and glorious as imagined.
Thankfully, I have learned there is another way to approach life. This perspective is possible because of a decision I made in grade school. During a series of meetings at my church, the pastor explained that all of us sin and do things in our life that separate us from God. He explained that God cannot tolerate sin, and that the penalty for sin would be death and eternal separation from God. We cannot overcome that separation on our own. However, Jesus, God’s own Son, loved us enough to die a painful humiliating death on a cross to pay that penalty for our sin. We learned that Jesus was buried then rose from the dead in three days. This shows that Jesus had the power to overcome death and sin and that we can trust Him with our lives. The Bible teaches that by believing in Jesus and trusting Him with our life we can be given the special gift of living in heaven with God forever after we die. At the end of one of the meetings, I shared with our pastor that I believed Jesus had done all of this for me, I trusted Jesus to deal with my problem with sin, and I asked Jesus to take control of my life.
After making this important decision to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ as a child, God began changing me, and He continues that molding process to this day. It took many years for me to fully understand that God loves me unconditionally and sees me as significant because He created me. As I more fully realized that God designed me with certain abilities, my significance became more and more from God and His plan for my life and less and less from myself. My happiness was more and more related to my relationship with Christ, not from my resume or credentials. God has gradually freed me from my driven personality and replaced stress with peace because I know He is in control. Oh, I still fall back into my old sinful patterns many, many times, but God faithfully forgives me and encourages me to keep moving in the right direction.
These changes have made a tremendous difference in my marriage, my approach to parenting, my focus with teaching, and all of my relationships. I have a tremendous sense of purpose. I am motivated to love those around me and encourage them to strengthen their relationship with God because I know that matters for all of eternity. I know that despite my challenges, struggles, and disappointments in life, I have been given the wonderful gift of living forever with God in heaven after I die’what peace that brings! In the meantime, my significance comes from my relationship with Christ and living in a way that expresses my gratitude for all He has done for me.
I would love to talk with you further about my perspective on life if you have any