I am little more than a month away from earning a master’s degree, and I really should be doing my homework. There is laundry piling up, and my to-do list seems to be getting longer instead of shorter. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve told my kids to stop fighting or re-emphasized what it means to “love one another.” Probably one less than the number of times I’ve failed to model that behavior myself. I’m still waiting for my days to start looking like the summer teacher memes I see on Facebook. But I’ve noticed a theme arising from this season of my life, and it leads me to a question worth reflecting on:
What if the little things are actually the big things?
- What if a heartfelt note written in obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit matters as much as a diploma that takes years to earn?
- What if God cherishes the time I spend alone with Him more than the time I spend on a stage?
- What if the words scrawled into my prayer journal–the questions, musings, praise, and petitions that no one else will ever see–move His heart more than this public blog?
- What if the daily demands of parenting–the tasks I label as monotonous, menial, and unimportant–are watering seeds of greatness in my children?
What if diligence carries more weight than a job title? Could the depth of my trust in God’s provision be more important than the size of my pay check? Is it possible that the journey, even more so than the dream, is where I’m meant to find my purpose?
Hilaria just graduated from high school. When I saw her walk that stage, I wanted to jump and shout and scream like an over-zealous NFL fan at the Super Bowl. You see, she was classified as a freshman when she came to us at the end of what should have been her sophomore year. Yet, she graduated on time, won a presidential award, and has been accepted to Angelo State University. She’s worked so hard to be where she is today!
Twice in the last couple of weeks, I have received messages from women who wanted to tell me how Hilaria has impacted them. Neither spoke about her diploma or an award. Instead, they both told me how she had taken a moment to encourage them or to pray for them at a time when they were struggling.
Can I tell you that those messages–written by people I do not know well but who are precious to God–moved me to tears? I’ll never know for certain, but I suspect that the few minutes it took for Hilaria to stick around after class and voice a prayer had more eternal impact than the untold hours of credit recovery that allowed her to graduate on time. Her presidential award will probably end up in a box somewhere collecting dust. (Maybe next to Robert’s football trophies and my academic accolades.) But I can’t help but wonder if there is a gleaming plaque hanging somewhere on the walls of Heaven that proudly proclaims, “Hilaria loved on people while checking out their groceries at Walmart.”
As I get older (and hopefully wiser), the contrast between temporal and eternal becomes sharper in my mind. Like the difference between the black and white picture on an old box television set and the 8K resolution displayed on today’s newest flat screens. Achievements and approval are so often the focus here on Earth, but they dull in comparison to what is done from a place of selflessness and surrender. Those moments are vibrant with the color of Heaven. The more I contemplate the difference, the more I am moved to reconsider my priorities.
How many divine encounters have I missed while working feverishly to earn titles or pieces of paper? How much time spent preparing for a stage would have been better served at the feet of Jesus? Do the words I write for a public audience flow from a deeper well of honest conversation with God?
What about my children? Will their character outshine the frilly bows and dresses I adorn them with? Am I teaching my kids to chase God more than academics, sports, and “all of the things?”
And my job? Is it just a job–a place where I punch the clock to earn a salary? Or are my daily tasks and interactions turned over to God in such a way that He is able to use even the smallest things for His glory?
There is nothing wrong with earning diplomas, so long as they don’t take precedence over discipleship. We must learn to follow Jesus so faithfully that others want to follow Him too. The “stages” of our lives–those places where we have public influence–have the potential to be a blessing to many. But if we value the stage over time spent in God’s presence, we’ll crumble under the expectations of others. Academics, athletics, and other pursuits are far more valuable when they fit into the greater narrative of a life wholly given over to God. And even the most mundane job or parenting task can bring joy and satisfaction when it is done for God’s glory.
“Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people.”–Colossians 3:23 (CSB)
At times, I find myself getting so swept up in the dreams I have for myself and my kids that I forget to live in the moment—to incline my ear to the gentle prodding of God’s Spirit. To consider how I might, in this moment, minister to the heart of God or be a blessing to another human being. To hear Him whisper:
- Holly, will you hold this crying baby for another hour, for Me?
- Will you set down the phone and look that child in the eye, for Me?
- I know you’re running late, but will you stop and speak to that stranger? She’s not a stranger to Me.
These are the little things—the small moments that matter much. This is the stuff dreams are made of.
Big dreams are life-giving. We need them to stir up hope, to motivate us as we press through life’s challenges, and to make us aware of something and Someone greater than ourselves. But the “stuff of dreams”–the adventure, the personal growth, the impact on people and on God’s kingdom–is in the journey itself and not in “having arrived.”
What does it mean to arrive anyway? Do I really want that? Or, will I look back one day and wish I’d been more conscious of the beauty and power of a single moment offered to God?
The big things are nothing but the sum total of all the little things. The difference between insignificant and significant is what happens when we get rid of in—in a minute, in time, in the future. To be significant is to offer whatever we have in any given moment to God, without drudgery or doubt, hesitation or restriction.