The Longing for Greatness

Marcia Laycock is a pastor’s wife, mother of three grown daughters, a speaker and author. Her novel, One Smooth Stone won her the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award in 2006. Her devotional books have been endorsed by Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. Visit her website –

Some time ago I watched a video that I’d heard a lot about. People said it was inspiring. They said I just had to watch it. Sometimes I ignore these kinds of messages, but eventually I gave in and clicked into UTube to see what all the fuss was about.

The small screen showed a rather plumb, unassuming middle aged man with crooked teeth. He stood at a microphone looking decidedly unsure of himself. Then the camera panned to the four judges watching him. Their expression seemed to say, “Let’s just get this over with.” Finally one of them asked why he was there. “To sing opera,” he said simply. The judges smirked. One of them rolled his eyes. But they let him go ahead.

Then the man opened his mouth and his voice boomed out as he sang from his heart and soul. The judges’ jaws dropped. Some in the audience began to weep; so did one of the judges. When he was done the audience was on its feet cheering for the cell phone salesman who had just demonstrated that you can’t always tell a book by its cover.

The man’s name was Paul Potts and he went on to win the competition called Britain’s Got Talent. He’s a star now, singing around the world. His is a fairytale success story that has captured the imagination of millions. It made me wonder why. Why have so many, and I count myself among them, responded so strongly to Mr. Potts’ performance? I think it’s because all of us have a tiny part in us that says, “there’s something great in me, if I can just find a way to let everyone see it.” Some might call that ‘delusions of grandeur.’ I think it’s something more. I think it’s a deep belief that we are more than we seem to be. Because we are.

When God created the first man he “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7). He also created him “in his own image” (Gen. 1:27). Man is much more than just a bunch of bones, tissue and blood. We were created to house the very spirit of God himself, to be a temple and in a sense a representative of God. I think we all feel that and long for it to be fulfilled – it’s a longing for the nobility, the beauty, even the glory we were intended to have.

Writers feel it, this longing for greatness. We strive for excellence in our work, strive to depict the nobility and greatness we sense, then send it out, hoping someone will recognize that it’s good enough to be broadcast to the world. Yes, we want the recognition but I believe we long for something more – a connection to something beyond us that is indeed great. Every now and then we get a glimpse of it, as that audience did when Paul Potts sang. We respond to it, we stand to our feet and applaud it, and we weep because we long for it.

That audience will remember Mr. Potts’ performance but it will only serve to intensify the longing in them. As writers, we may sometimes receive recognition but it will be swiftly gone and the longing remains. Only a relationship with God will satisfy it, only striving to be like Him will fulfill it. The longing will never completely go away until we are face to face with our Lord. When we connect with the One who put that longing in our hearts, and serve Him by acting according to His plan for our lives, there is a joy and fulfillment that can come from no other source.

That short video of Paul Potts made me weep. I will always have that longing in my heart, because I am a child of God yet separated from Him. My encouragement comes from walking the path He has laid out for me and feeling His presence with me. My joy comes from striving to articulate that longing and His greatness. My hope lies in the reality that one day we will be reunited, the longing at last satisfied.