Millennials heard it every day growing up. “You are special.” From parents. Teachers. Coaches. Heck, even strangers would lob the empty praise our way.
You’ll hear pretty often that Millennials are the “entitled generation.” Because we think we’re so special. And as soon as someone brings it up, a million Millennials immediately point out the irony: “You were the ones telling us that every day of our lives!”
It didn’t take long in the real world for us to realize “I am special” doesn’t look good on a job application. And to realize, if everyone is special… that’s pretty much the same thing as saying no one is special. When we’re all unique, that’s one less thing that’s unique about us.
Special to the world looked a lot different than special to my coach – we still got ice cream if we lost a ball game. Being special won us hugs from our parents but not raises from our bosses. Something was wrong with the lenses adults raised us wearing.
We Are Special…
There is an interesting tension in being special sometimes and not at other times. I’m special to my mom, that’s a fact. She has spent her life lifting me up. I’m not special to the world, that’s pretty clear too. “All Quiet on the Western Front.” If I died today, not a thing would change on a global scale.
And it’s the same for everyone – even the most famous people don’t register as a blip on the cosmic radar when they pass and everyone moves on.
My friends would miss me, of course. (You would, right?! Hello?!) My family, too. Maybe coworkers. Thinking on this, I made a humble realization.
We aren’t special on our own power. Special is something that is given to us. It is something that comes out of our context, not our entitlement.
Another way to say it, it’s wrong to say “we are special” and end that statement with a period (.) . The truth is “we are special” must end with an ellipses (…) . Because it’s rooted in our context.
Context is Everything
There’s something everyone I’m special to has in common. They’re in a relationship with me. That’s the key. It should surprise us, given how relational our God is. But the fact is, we’re only special within the context of relationship. We aren’t “just special.” We are “special TO someone.”
I’m strong, but there’s always someone stronger. I’m smart, but there’s always someone smarter. I’m talented, but there’s always someone who can do more or better or faster. None of the things that make me “me” are the things that make me special.
The truth is, other people make us special. We’re not special on our own – we’re special to others. Others make us special. Specialness is given, not taken.
This realization can be quite empowering.
1. We make others special. They might not be the tallest or fastest or strongest or smartest – but they don’t need to be. I have the power to make them special to me. We can change the world by learning to value people within the context of relationship. The profile of every villain is that they are loners. They didn’t feel special in any relationships. Or they lost that one relationship that made them feel special. We can redeem the world by making others special to us – and letting them know it regularly. We can save the people around us who are most at risk, and all it takes is making a place for them to be special in our lives.
2. It doesn’t require anything from us to be special. Since specialness is something GIVEN instead of EARNED, it can be given regardless of potential return. You can learn to care and love for people who are complete strangers, who are completely different, who aren’t easy to relate with, who don’t seem to have much to offer. And sometimes caring for “the least of these” is precisely what it takes for them to bloom. In the same vein, you are often special to people that you don’t feel you deserve affection from. You can’t understand why they love you – but they still do. You’re special to them, and it isn’t because of something you did to earn it.
This makes specialness a gift of grace. Which brings us to the eternal application:
3. We are special to God. We didn’t do anything to earn it – and there is nothing we can do to earn it. It’s already given. You are special. Not because of who you are or what you’ve done or what you’re great at or how you’ve succeeded. You are special because God decided to care about you, no strings attached. We just have to accept it.
You can run from being special to someone. Being special is about being valued within the context of a relationship. And God offers that relationship – and that value – to everyone. We are special … to Him.
That is the Gospel. That is Good News. Share it!