The central dilemma of Disney’s recent adaptation of The Wizard of Oz is the supposed irreconcilability between being good and being great. The Wizard finds himself spinning away from the black and white land where his mediocre magic tricks bring vegetables to his face and personal shame for making a living at being a fraud. In the Technicolor Land of Oz, he discovers that even though he can save a place from a wicked witch and earn the highest praise in the land, true greatness comes through his new friendships forged in Oz. But I’m not here to give a film critique. And I don’t know if Disney would agree with my assessment of the meaning of the film. If you can’t stand Oz, I hope I haven’t lost you yet.
Actually, I was just thinking tonight about the difference between goodness and greatness. As the highlights of other people’s lives fill my facebook newsfeed or inspiring movies make me crave a life full of passion and conviction, I have become tempted to believe that because I’m not scaling Mount Everest tomorrow or finding the cure for cancer or even making memories that would be worthy of telling future imaginary grandchildren, that my life is somehow inferior to those who are living their dreams. But as I wrestled more with this, I made some discoveries that have helped me be content with where I am as just another twenty something college grad living at home with not much clarity about the future.
I kept coming across the word “good” or “goodness” when I was reading the Bible the other day and decided to do a little concordance checking. God called all of creation good. He is the Good Shepherd. We’re told to overcome evil with good, encouraged to fight the good fight, and will be named good and faithful servants if we are just that. On the other side of the page was the word “great.” Jesus calls the faith of a Canaanite woman whose daughter was demon-possessed, great. Various authors use the word “great” to describe God’s love. He is called our Great High Priest. I don’t claim to be a Biblical scholar by any stretch of the imagination, but a little sense and careful reading tend to offer rewards to readers, too. It seems that goodness involves daily care and commitment to doing things that may not seem extraordinary at first glance. Greatness, although often appearing more impressive and magnificent than goodness, is no more superior to goodness than one name of God supersedes another. In other words, the two qualities, though different in meaning, are equally good…great…I’m at a loss for the appropriate adjective right now.
This all sounds so much more coherent in my head than it does when I write it. But I think, essentially what I’m trying to say is that the good things I’m doing these days … making a few extra cups of coffee for my parents in the morning, trying to pacify a crying toddler even I’m feeling tired, sometimes managing to choose words that uplift instead of hurt, praying when I don’t feel like it, maybe even scribbling out unpublishable blog posts because I think honestly sharing my thoughts might be a blessing to somebody out there … that these are the things that God sees as great. As a disclaimer, I realize any goodness or greatness I will ever possess is only Jesus in me. But I do believe that He wants us to see that just as a fiery sunset crowns what may have been a dismal day, the muck of daily living can be crammed with purpose if we’ll only choose to embrace that perspective. Maybe the next great adventure begins when I start looking around where I am today and not on the far-off horizon after all.