I’m in book five of The Chronicles of Narnia, The Horse and His Boy. Since it happens to everyone, like myself, who rereads books over and over, it goes without saying that I am seeing things this time never noticed before. For example, this short speech by the Hermit of the Southern March to Bree, the talking horse, on his way home to Narnia after being in slavery:
My good Horse,” said the Hermit… “My good Horse, you’ve lost nothing but your self-conceit. No, no, cousin. Don’t put back your ears and shake your mane at me. If you are really so humbled as you sounded a minute ago, you must learn to listen to sense. You’re not quite the great Horse you had come to think, from living among poor dumb horses. Of course you were braver and cleverer than them. You could hardly help being that. It doesn’t follow that you’ll be anyone very special in Narnia. But as long as you know you’re nobody special, you’ll be a very decent sort of Horse, on the whole, and taking one thing with another. (emphasis mine)
This is the message you will never hear in schools, TV commercials or churches. In fact you will hear the very opposite. “You are special!” is the mantra of well, everyone. The idea is everyone is really, really special. And to a point, I suppose it is true. But if everyone is special then no one is special. So, then, of course, the goal is to be more special by doing special, specialized things. Distinguish yourself.
Schools tell you, “you are innately special so do something special and change the world.” The commercials tell you, “you are special, buy our product, change the world.” And the evangelical churches? There are two kinds of pastors in the main. Those who speak at conferences with Green Rooms
and those who want to do so. How could they have any other message besides one in which the listener walks away with the purpose of doing something special to change the world? All for the glory of God.
I mean, who would want to be a person no one has ever heard of? What kind of person just goes about their business in this rock-star culture? What pastor wants to remain nameless in year-in and year-out obscurity? When fame and reputation and notoriety are ripe for the picking? Why would you be Greta Garbo, when there’s YouTube?
But I say, “Be nobody special.” Do your job. Take care of your family. Clean your house. Mow your yard. Read your Bible. Attend worship. Pray. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Love your spouse. Love your kids. Be generous. Laugh with your friends. Drink your wine heartily. Eat your meat lustily. Be honest. Be kind to your waitress. And expect no special treatment. And do it all quietly
The problem is that the zeitgeist of this age is you should let nothing stop you from being special. And the most especially vulnerable to this sermon are the young people who after a semester of college are now experts at being special. And the preachers of this message, regardless of the medium, are nothing if not earnest. And it is not hard to imagine why. Telling someone they are not special sounds cruel. But I disagree.
The “you’re nobody special” message may be the most freeing message of all. For now, you can just be yourself. Over against being the abstract, “special”, you can land on the hard concrete reality of being yourself. No need to be the “pie in the sky” version of someone else’s idea of what special is. You can now just love God, love others and be nobody. And as long as you know this. “…you’re nobody special – you’ll be a very decent sort of horse, on the whole, and taking one thing with another.”