“Sometimes a small investment can radically change another person’s life.” Pastor Steve Norby.
This is a line from the message my Pastor gave on Mother’s Day this spring. It really stuck with me. I am working hard to commit this line, not just to memory, but to the very heart of my daily life. It can be such a challenge to be consistent in the small and simple things day in & day out.
Being Faithful to Become Fruitful
If we want our lives to have fruit that nourishes ourselves and others, we must first be faithful. Faithful in the little things that we are responsible for. Over time the seeds of faithfulness sprout, grow strong, develop fruit and ripen into a delicious harvest.
I have to admit, I can get frustrated with the little things in my life. The little things seem to require so much repetition. They do not seem to stay completed very long at all. They are the to do list tasks that are not glamorous and often times go unnoticed. It is hard to be faithful when frustrated.
A quick walk through my house right now shows that there are crumbs on the dining room table from where my son had his breakfast this morning. There are two cans in the sink that need to be put in the recycling bin. There are several insurance statements on the desk that need to be filed. The mat under the shoes needs to be shaken out. The load of laundry in the washing machine finished and needs to go into the dryer.
To go through and tend to all of these things will not take much time, but I know I am bound to find another task with every small thing I accomplish. The crumbs, the cans, the cleaning, the categorizing, I can guarantee that there will be much more of that before this day is done. This is just a sampling of the little stuff that I caught with my eyes in a few moments.
The little stuff gives the illusion of being simple, but what happens when 1,457 little things need to be tended to? Frustration rains down and threatens to wash away the seeds we have planted.
Glory Not Glamour
There is not a whole lot of glamour in tending to the small things. A simple thank you card, not very glamorous. A dozen long stem white roses, extremely glamorous. Making sure all of the kids toys, sports equipment, bottles, and accessories are out of the vehicles each evening, not very glamorous. Buying someone a new car, extremely glamorous.
The big things get our attention. They shine. They wow. They seem magical. But, it usually does not take long for the glimmer to go, the magic to fade, and our attention to drift.
The little things may not seem so glamorous, but I think there is a lot of glory that goes to God when we are faithful in the little things. You just never know when that thank you card brings courage in a moment of despair. You never know how cared for the parent feels when someone gives them the gift of a cleaned vehicle. These gifts bring gratitude, gratitude that grows into glory to God.
The focus of our eyes, the scope of our vision is limited. We can only take in so many details in our circumstances and we only get a glimpse at any given moment of the lives of others. There really is more than we know going on.
“Just as you’ll never understand the mystery of life forming in a pregnant woman,
So you’ll never understand the mystery at work in all that God does. Go to work in the morning and stick to it until evening without watching the clock. You never know from moment to moment how your work will turn out in the end.”
Ecclesiastes 11:5-6 (Message)
You never know from moment to moment how your work will turn out in the end. You never know when a small investment can radically change another person’s life. There is more than you know going on.
It takes faith to be faithful. Faith that God sees even what we do not see. Faith to trust that God is right there when we feel frustrated in the little things. When no one else notices or seems to care, God’s attention is captured and He cares a great deal. God over sees the mysterious work of growing faithfully planted seeds into a harvest of nourishing fruit.
Forcing the Fruit
We need to trust God with the tasks that He has given us and the timing that He has. This can be hard to do when there is more than we know going on. To us the timing can often seem so tight and then we try to manipulate the task to fit the schedule that we think we see before us. It is then that frustration and failure come to our time compressed attempts to accomplish an envisioned task.
We just can not force fruit to grow by trying to control the tasks and the timing. I can not recount the number of times that I have attempted to force fruit to grow in my life. I set some pretty high expectations of myself. I know those expectations spill over and lead to frustration for so many around me, which I often find myself asking for forgiveness of from God and from others.
It is my insecurities that tend to increase my personal expectations of myself. When I feel that I am not successful my natural tendency is to increase my expectations on myself. Do more. Be more. I have this backward wiring internally. When I hear “you can’t do that” my reaction tends to be “oh yes I can, and I can better than you think.”
In some ways, this is a good thing. In others, not so much. I was only 17 when I found out I was pregnant with my son. My senior year included a wedding and the arrival of a little one. A large number of my teachers expected me to drop out of school all together. But there was more going on than they new.
As my boyfriend (turned husband) and I walked through the consequence of our actions, it was hard. It was overwhelming and left us in shock. We had made life so much more challenging for ourselves. The odds, definitely not in our favor. I remember someone telling me, “don’t you know that only 7% of teen marriages make it over the long term.” I don’t know where they got that statistic or if it was even true, but I remember it being bellowed at me.
The feelings of failure haunted most moments of my day. Believe me, the things people were saying about me and to me (all comments not worth repeating) did not even come close to what was running through my head. Many solitary tears and sleepless nights convinced me that I had to make things better. My son, my young husband, myself, we needed a better life. So when people told me I couldn’t, I just had enough silly stubbornness or feeble faith (I’m not sure which) to tell myself that I could.
I sure believe God forgave me quicker than anyone else, including myself. I am deeply grateful to everyone who did not give up on me or on my little family. There was more going on than they knew. There were so many little investments that made a radical difference in my life. The support through time, talent and treasure. The help, encouragement and provision.
Through it all, there have been many times I have tried to force the tasks and the timing to prove I could invalidate my insecurities. This was especially true in those early years of my marriage and parenting, when I new there was a God but did not really know God. There was so much more going on than I knew. I did not realize how God was shaping me and drawing me near to Him.
I know looking back that the Lord’s protection and providence were freely flowing into my life in abundance. So many little things where the credit can only be to His glory. The Lord’s faithfulness which is fruitful in my life.
My education included graduating high school with honors, two bachelors degrees and a masters degree. My precious baby boy, well he’s about to start his senior year in High School. Our daughter who came along six years after my son, is about to start Middle School. My hubby and I we are celebrating over seventeen and a half years of marriage together. I guess by God’s grace, you can count us in that 7%.
Life is still tough some days, ok most days. Marriage is not always a picnic. Parenting is a roller coaster where you can’t see the track, its hills or its curves. Finances seem thin more than thick. Works has its demands as do all of the organizations we connect ourselves to. All these facets of life provide the numerous, small, repetitive responsibilities to tend to.
While there is more going on than we know, it is through the love of Jesus that we have the strength to be faithful, we can focus more on the glory than the glamour, and we trust the tasks & the timing needed for the fruit to grow in all areas of our lives.
Thank You so much for Your love and faithfulness. Thank You for working so diligently and wholeheartedly on all of the things we can not begin to comprehend and understand. You are amazing. I pray that we take a moment today to just be in awe of who You are.
May we not be exasperated or frustrated at the thought of how much we do not know, but instead help us to have a strengthening trust that what may be out of our minds & hands is NEVER outside of Your attention or ability.
Thank you for using the tasks that You give us, the small investments that You allow us to make to radically change the lives of others. Please bless us with a sampling of the sweet harvest of fruit that You are growing in the corners of the world where we are at.
In the faithful, fruitful and glorious name of Jesus, amen.