What makes someone great? Pushed on by his merciless, foul-mouthed college tutor, Andrew believes it is drive, talent, practice, 110 per cent commitment in favour of everything else. Charlie Parker may have only lived until he was 34 but everyone knows his name and his achievements. Andrew is even willing to jeopardise his relationship with his girlfriend Nicole in his pursuit of greatness. To put anything that might get in the way… out of the way. After all, Charlie Parker was once nearly decapitated when a cymbal was hurled at him, but that flying bit of kit made him go home, rethink and practise until he was the greatest.
We love the stories we can relate about the great and the good and their achievements. The heroes and the infamous, those who lived lives less ordinary. Those who seized their day. But there was often a cost, and their tales were sometimes tragic, sad and lonely. In his series on Fame, Clive James once remarked on the very public romance of Charles and Diana – ‘They were our fairy tale come true,’ he said, ‘not theirs.’ We all wanted a glossy love story, but the truth was more upsetting. Diana became the most photographed woman in the world. But beyond that it seems her life was full of difficulty.
God’s sense of greatness, as outlined in the Bible, is so different to mine. Jesus came along and turned the spotlight on the meek, the humble, the poor in spirit, as if God was almost prioritising them. Saying – there’s another way. Another kind of greatness. I will always be battling with my desire to look good in the eyes of others. My ego will always be dissatisfied, urging me to find transient affirmation, instead of something more nourishing, something lasting. Something to be found in God. Jesus once said, ‘Your care for others is the measure of your greatness.’ He set aside his power and authority to make himself a servant. (Philippians 2 v 5-7) And having done that he encouraged his followers by saying that God sees the secret things we do. (Matthew 6 v 4) The little things, the good things, the kind, compassionate things. The things that will make no headlines, or win us no awards. (And if I’m honest, I really like the idea of lots of awards and applause.) Those things, Jesus seemed to say, God really values, those things make us truly great.