“You will always be a critic and never an author and…and the world will forget that you ever even lived. But I…but I…no one will forget Jo March.”
~ Jo March | Little Women 2019
“I want to be great, or nothing.”
~ Amy March | Little Women 2019
We carve our names on trees and leave our initials on school desks and locker room walls. We’ve got Halls of Fame and Walls of Honour. Perhaps dying isn’t our greatest fear after all; perhaps our greatest fear is dying un-remembered.
When Jo March said “no one will forget Jo March” in the 2019 adaptation of Little Women, you FEEL her frustration. Frederich Bhaer had just finished giving her constructive criticism on her writing and he told it like it was: Jo wrote rubbish, trash designed only to sell and make money, thus lacking in any real meaning or lasting value.
And Frederich knew it. And Jo knew it too, deep down inside. But it made her angry and fed the already-confused yet passionate tangle of thoughts and emotions coursing through her like fire.
She wanted to be remembered. She didn’t want to lie in a cold grave; out of sight, out of her mind. As her bones decayed with each passing year, so would her memory. And that scared her. So she declared that no one, no one would forget her. She was going to do something astonishing; she didn’t know what yet, but she would be remembered.
Her sister Amy echoes a similar sentiment later on in the film.
Laurie challenges her; asking why she’s given up on her art. Amy lets him know that talent and genius aren’t the same thing. She may have talent but she lacks the genius of her sister, Jo, and in Amy’s mind talent without genius is wasted. So she’s throwing in the towel ’cause, as she so petulantly tells Laurie, “I want to be great or nothing.” If she can’t have it all, if she can’t be remembered, it’s not worth it.
Then there’s Eowyn…my girl. And she sort of got it right. She catches hold of something Jo and Amy were too frustrated and proud to see: it’s not just about being remembered; it’s about honour. It’s about fighting for things and people you hold dear. It’s about doing something valiant with your one precious life on this earth:
“The women of this country learned long ago that those without swords can still die upon them. I fear neither death nor pain.” ~ Eowyn
“What you do fear, my lady?” ~ Aragorn
“A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them and all chance of valour has gone beyond recall or desire.” ~ Eowyn
~ The Return of the King (film version)
The cry of Eowyn’s heart is the cry of my own and I’d venture a guess that it’s the cry of yours as well; deep, deep down inside. Her fear of dying in obscurity resonates ’cause we all want to be immortal. We all want to live forever. That’s why we carve our initials in the trunks of trees and name our children after us and talk about “leaving our mark” on the world or in people’s hearts.
And the fate of Ozymandias fills us with fear. Ozymandias erected a statue for himself, according to Percy Shelley’s poem, but hundreds, perhaps thousands of years later, all that remained were two broken legs and a crumbling face lying in the sand. Etched into the stone ran the words:
“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Do you see the horrible irony? He wanted to be remembered for his greatness but in the end, decay robbed him of even that. Nothing remained of his empire but broken stones submerged in endless sand.
Perhaps you don’t want your name in lights. You don’t want a silly statue. Perhaps you’re not hungering for fame outright so you think you’re safe from that sort of pride. But lovely humans, that yearning for greatness manifests itself in other ways that perhaps hit closer to home for many of us.
Raising children isn’t glamourous. It’s messy, smelly, frustrating, demands self-denial & self-sacrifice, pushes you to the end of your patience, and, worst of all, most of it takes place behind closed doors. No one sees your sacrifice. No one knows what you’ve given up.
Heading off to work every morning won’t win you any awards (unless you’re gifted a promotion). It’s routine, frustrating, tedious, wearisome, and painfully ordinary.
Writing papers, studying for tests, learning material that twists your brain into knots, spending 6 hours a day, 5 days a week in a grey building with countless other young people for 12 (maybe 16 years if you head to “higher” education) seems like wasted time.
Peeling carrots for dinner, taking out the trash, folding laundry, cleaning toilets, fighting sin in your heart all.day.long. watching helplessly as those you love run themselves into an early grave, weeping at the pain and heart-ache of a loved one, saving up for a car; for your first home; for a ring; for a wedding dress; for a vacation; for a puppy;
shoveling snow yet again, mowing the lawn yet again, dealing with broken relationships; shattered dreams; unfulfilled longings; other humans who just have a way of getting under your skin; sickness; uncertainty about your future…
And this lil voice inside you sighs “I was meant for more than this…there’s got to be more than this.”
John Piper put it this way:
“Yes, we are weak and weary and heavy-laden. But there burns in every heart, at least from time to time, a dream that our lives will count for something great.”
~ Seeing and Savouring Jesus Christ
They told us we could be anything we wanted; that the world was our canvas and there was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for every one who was willing to work their tail off to find it.
They told us that we would do great things for God, for His Kingdom; and we didn’t imagine we’d be making millions or anything but we just thought…well, we just didn’t think that THIS was what they meant.
No one told us about the unseen days, about the repetitive monotony that could almost drive you mad.
Ah, lovely humans, as with most things, this longing for greatness has come from our Creator Himself. He made us to live forever and we will. In Heaven, nothing will end and we’ll shine like we were meant to and He will shine brightest of all.
But until then, may we recalibrate our ideas of greatness and channel our secret longings for immortality that so often result in frustration, disappointment, and sadness. My own words are failing me here so I’ll let good ‘ol Doug McKelvey articulate this Truth:
“O Child of God, listen well, and be comforted. He has never judged you unfit for any service He has called you to, for it is in Christ’s righteousness He has clothed you. And His measure of greatness has never been your own. If you would pray to do great things for your God, then you must pray such prayers without regard for how they should be answered.
Pray them knowing that in His true and holy reckoning such greatness will most often be expressed in a long practice of humble and sacrificial servanthood, and not in any pursuit promising a rise to power, position, or prestige.
For it is not you that will do any great thing for God, but God labouring in you and through you Who will greatly accomplish His own good purposes according to the workings of His sovereignty and love…Be invested instead, child, in simple obedience to your King, and in long faithfulness to His call, shepherding daily those gifts and tasks and relationships He has entrusted to you, regardless of outcomes and appearances.”
~ “A Liturgy For Those Who Have Not Done Great Things For God”
We have a Great God, lovely humans, a magnificent King who fulfills all our longings for greatness in Himself. He is the One we yearn for. All the glory is His and that’s enough for us. So may we remember that every moment is holy. He’s called us to glorify Him wherever we are and that’s greatness, lovely humans. That’s true greatness and may we never forget it.
| We’re in a War, my friends, and we all need Courage on the Front Lines 🖤|