Sometimes life is made up of big things. Big events that shake us and sift us. Like moving, changing jobs, changing schools, changing relationships, or sudden shifts economically, politically, socially. Times when your faith is tested and tried and the true bedrock of life comes under scrutiny. You are aware of riding a huge wave that is terrifying and thrilling in equal measure; for better or worse, life is going to be changing drastically, and there is no way of knowing the ripple effect this will have on the future. Times when you feel truly alive. I have definitely experienced a lot of really big events in the past three years. And it has been both thrilling and terrifying.
Sometimes, however, life is made up of little things. Endless seemingly insignificant and unimportant moments that string together and suddenly before you know it, a whole week has gone by. A week of chores and laundry and driving and running errands…. Emails, conversations, churning out plans, organizing volunteers, cooking and cleaning and staying on track of friends’ birthdays and community events. Discussions at home about where to put what piece of artwork, and how much the water bill was this month (much too much!). Discussions about pocket money, and why we clean our rooms, and where God lives (yes but how did he get there?) and why we tell lies (it wasn’t me it was my brother). My life is sometimes overwhelmingly full of apparently small, insignificant details.
Planting a church, and endeavoring to implement God’s plan for a community in a large city, is a fairly big thing. So many lives are at stake, and people have given up jobs and homes to come with us. I yearn to “make a difference”, to see those who are lost and hurting saved from their lost-ness and hurt. To see the kids’ school transformed and our city become a place which is safe and happy for all. But I am constantly surprised and sometimes vexed by how many small and little things consume most of my time. Like pixels on a screen.
Dinner parties, games nights, friends coming and going, plants growing in the garden, barbecues smoking and neighborhood projects humming with volunteers. There are times when I fall into bed late at night, exhausted and spent, vaguely aware that we were mostly happy in our spending, but hoping that in the grand scheme of things, it was not all “smoke in the wind”.
Even here, in my busyness with small things, love also finds me. It seeks me out, like a persistent vine, spreading and finding the tiniest crack to hold fast. I read my bible on the run, sometimes with a cup of coffee, my soul so craved and needy it gorges on every word. I hear the whisper, I sense the call, to stop and meditate more on what I have just read. So, as I weave around the streets of our neighborhood, kids loudly conversing in the back of the car, water bottles being passed back and front and “look at that kitty, mama!” Yes, yes, such a cute kitty. So, I rehearse in my mind what I have read: faithful is he who calls us in him we are the righteousness of God because of his great love he died for us every good and perfect gift comes from our Father in heaven I am no longer a slave but free this is love that he lays down his life for his friends… And love blossoms and fills the space.
This is our faith: That as we come and go, as we strive to be the hands and feet of God to a hurting and broken world, he would heal us and love us and fill us to overflowing. I am always guilty of being a Martha rather than a Mary, as in the famous line of Jesus quoted by Luke : “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things, but Mary has chosen what is best”. To sit and receive at his feet is a splendid thing, and a necessary thing. But before long my feet get itchy. I must move. I must give what I have received. To me the needs of the world, my neighbors, my family, my friends, clamor so loudly, that when I look deeply into his face, I cannot but think of how he poured himself out, not even stopping short of giving his life. And I am compelled to move. To move and love and love and give. To exhaust myself in his service.
And I am careful to listen. Careful to weigh my time, my commitments and my agendas against the soft, quiet whisper that comes to me in the still moments. Yes, or no, this one or that one… like a tuning fork I feel myself yield to the slightest vibration. Why is this so important? Because I don’t want to waste a minute. Not one single minute of one single day doing something which is meaningless or eternally insignificant.
And you know the funny thing? It is never straightforward. I find myself sometimes gently nudged to spend more time with my family, sometimes to listen more deeply as I catch up with an old friend or to stop and observe the purple leaves of our cherry tree blowing in the wind. Sometimes to abandon the washing or the dirty dishes as my six-year old begs me to paint with her. Sometimes to fold the washing as my tired husband will need more socks tomorrow and clean the dishes because it is necessary for order and harmony in our home. To serve at our school when really I would rather be tinkering in my garden. To joyfully tinker in my garden when I struggle with guilt: should I be unpacking another box? To roll up my sleeves and work hard and push hard, but then to pull back and relax; the tension between being and doing.
There is no formula, no system that can achieve this: an awareness and understanding of a life FULLY lived and eternally significant and yet fully at rest in him. And I teeter on the brink of making unhealthy choices every day. Of missing the mark, of neglecting my family, avoiding my neighbors, over-engaging at church, under-engaging at church, being too busy, being too lazy, being too selfish in my personal pursuits, or too much a martyr to my duties.
Only love, only love can find me in this and safely steer me to the other side. Only through perfect love (his not mine), can the big things and the little things come together to find ultimate meaning and purpose.
In him we live and move and have our being – the Bible