I bumped into Maria Shriver—literally. I was entering the office of a New York publisher just as she was leaving. I apologized, we wisecracked for about ninety seconds and she was gone. I told quite a few people about it. Then a sobering thought struck me. I’m certain she did not mention our encounter to a single soul. That would be because she is a star and I’m as obscure as a grain of sand.
Ancient Jewish wisdom contrasts a star to a grain of sand or speck of dust. Stars are inexhaustible sources of light and energy; sand and dust only find their significance when they cling to many other tiny particles and become, say, a mighty dam.
In Genesis 13:16, God promises Abraham that his descendants will be numerous as the dust of the earth.
In Genesis 15:5, He promises Abraham that his descendants will be numerous as the stars.
Soon after, we find this promise:
…I will greatly increase your offspring like the stars of the heavens
and like the sand on the seashore
Why use both sand and stars? Either would illustrate large numbers.
While there is endless quantity of both stars and sand, Scripture is also emphasizing quality.
Life requires us to view ourselves simultaneously in two contradictory ways. Just as each star is its own world, we each have our own unique individual purpose, separate from those around us. But, only by humbly recognizing that our single existence is as meaningless in the grand scheme as one grain of sand, can we fully realize our star power, shining and beaming energy to those around us.
We sometimes forget the sand message and dream of stardom. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could stand out as the star of my company or group of friends?
Well, no, actually it wouldn’t.
A star without sand is often an impediment to teamwork. For many years the Seattle Mariners were a rather lackluster team in spite of having enjoyed the services of baseball stars like Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez. When they lost those three stars, the Mariners enjoyed a season such as they had never before experienced. They did this without a single star, just a team of good, solid players working together.
When the St. Louis Browns’ few stars were off fighting in 1944, the Browns went to the World Series. The Yankees won three world championships in a row without one single big-name baseball star on the team after losing their stars to the war effort. Between them, Mark McGuire and Sammy Sousa hit 136 home runs. They were stars, but neither of their teams amounted to much.
Although fans were gloomy when Wayne Gretzky departed the Edmonton Oilers, that hockey team improved rather than faltered.
Think about jobs you have had. Remember the star? Does anyone think of him fondly? Stars don’t do very much for teams. But neither do people who think they are so insignificant that they have nothing to offer.
One way to integrate the stars and sand sides of our personalities is to carefully cultivate our speech. How we express ourselves reflects what we think of both ourselves and others. My audio CD, Perils of Profanity-You Are What You Speak, (also available as an instant download) explores how today’s commonplace use of vulgar language impacts people’s social, romantic and economic lives. Even if cursing isn’t a part of your life, this teaching provides incredible Torah insights revealing the immense power of words. Perhaps someone you love, heading off to school or work, would benefit from this CD.
Accentuating or ignoring our own value may give us a momentary high or make us feel noble, but both are soon followed by a sense of meaninglessness. We thrive when we balance star and sand. Meeting Maria Shriver reminded me of that Torah lesson. And this is the last you’ll ever hear from me about meeting that beautiful star.
P.S. The response to the sale on Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language, has been so positive that I am extending the sale price through midnight Wednesday, PST.