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Someone has wisely said that life is a series of tiny little miracles—notice them. That might sound a bit trite—but I believe it to be true. Do you?
Often times we are too busy to stop and reflect on what’s going on around us. The little things—they can make a huge difference in the way we think or feel. We get a new outlook on some aspect of life—or even they give us new hope and inspiration.
One of my favourite authors is a priest named Henri Nouwen. He’s got some tremendous insights into life. Here’s what he said one day:
Sometimes we are called to do great acts of kindness or make great sacrifices. But this is seldom normal. Usually we have the opportunity for many small acts of love and service, and are called to make many small sacrifices. The significance and power of these cannot be underestimated.
The Power of Small Sacrifices
Simple acts of charity can be done by anyone—a child or adult, in any area of life. Just one act, word, can make a profound difference. I heard about a young man in drug recovery. His life has spiralled out of control and he came into a rehab program. A good step. And in recovery circles, small things matter. Each morning he made his bed. No big deal you might say—but for him it’s a big decision as he never bothered much before. He makes his bed as a commitment to getting better—to his getting over drug addiction. He does it on purpose and strengthens his resolve to make his life have purpose too. As he smooths out the sheet wrinkles, he feels God is helping him sort some personal ego problems as well.
Other people I know of spend 10 minutes in prayer to God before they go to bed. Not a long time, but it puts the day into perspective and helps them sleep better.
If you read the Bible you’ll see that God likes small things. it’s his speciality to take insignificant smallness and turn them into amazing strategies. Many of the events started out small—like people we read in the Bible who felt inadequate and scared. Yet God wanted them to be leaders and take a big step forward—a boy with a small lunch gave his meal to Jesus who blessed this and fed 5,000. Small things do matter.
As I think about it, God seems to enjoy the beauty of the very small, as well as the very large. And that is good news for us, because you know our life is not exactly overwhelmed with the very large things spiritually. Most of what we are engaged with is fairly small stuff. A few of us are going to affect millions of people, have impact on tens of thousands. That is not the way our life is likely to work. Most of life is just work, meals, time with family, time with friends, nothing earthshaking in that pattern. That is what the stuff of our life is made out of.
And is that important to God? Is that important to the Kingdom of God or is it only the big things that are going on?
Little Things Are Part of God’s Will For Us
In the New Testament we read that Jesus invests himself primarily in 12 people. And he didn’t even do a worldwide search to find the best 12. He takes 12 that have come out of few small villages in Israel. Little things; Jesus didn’t despise the little things. He could be going on the road, going to a place where he knows he is going to have an opportunity to speak to hundreds and maybe even thousands. He is going to a synagogue to have a special time of teaching and on the way Jesus is willing to stop and let the little children come to him.
His disciples didn’t like that: Jesus, what you are doing is too important. He says, “No, let the little children come to me.” Little things. He would be on the way, important things at the end of his journey and he is willing to stop to heal one woman, stop to heal one blind person. Jesus wasn’t afraid of little things. He recognised how important they are and he even did that in his teaching. He showed us how important the little things were. It’s Jesus who has taught us the incredible importance of a glass of cold water; that even a cup of cold water given in his name to the least of the people that we encounter can be something that God values so much that he considers it service to himself. A little thing that is so honoured in the eyes of God.
Sometimes we have got to realise that the little things are a lot what we do on the way to the will of God—the little things, the interruptions, the hassles, the unexpected things. Those things are the will of God for us. So let’s not despise the little things. Conversations in the hall or in the kitchen, thank-you cards, phone calls, casseroles and cakes, extra time we spend with people, fixing a light switch, cutting somebody’s grass or just treating a stranger with respect.
Little things do matter. The problem is we can’t predict in advance which ones they are. We can’t pick and choose. It’s not the way only the spiritual world is built; it’s the way all of life is built. Little things matter and only God knows how much.
Dear God, help us to be very attentive to the little things in life. Help us to just be careful not to despise them or to view them all as hassles. But like Jesus to be ready for those interruptions, ready for those additions, ready for those changes. Those little things that are on the way to big goals that we have. Thank you, in Jesus name. Amen.