So often, I’m distracted by the big, by the glamorous, by the awe-inspiring tales of faithfulness and success and daring deeds. I hear of missionaries leaving everything familiar to live with jungle tribes, or best-selling authors who inspire millions with their words, or preachers who convict the hearts of thousands at a time, and a voice inside wonders if this life I’ve chosen – a simple life with a 9-5 job, and a house in small-town-USA, and homemaking, and soon-to-be child-rearing, a life where my influence rarely extends beyond the small circle of my friends and family – that voice wonders whether this life I’ve chosen is truly living up to its potential, whether I am being faithful with what I have been given.
There have been a spate of books from Christian authors in recent years, books challenging us to be radical, to do big things for God, to start revolutions in the way we choose to order our lives. I have no qualms with such calls to action when handled well, for I know from personal experience that it is far too easy to become complacent, to accept the status quo, to settle into this life without considering my role as a follower of Christ, and I sometimes need that nudge to help me become more like Him. But there is danger here, too, for such books often leave me feeling that extreme steps are the only way to do this Christian thing well and that a simple, ordinary-but-faithful life is not really worthwhile. In my mind, I think we all must be Pauls or Peters. I forget that there were many more regular but Christ-loving folks mentioned in Acts and throughout the letters than there were apostles and “heroes of the faith”, that Micah spells out rather clearly what is expected of me, that acting justly and loving mercy and walking humbly with God looks slightly different for each of us and that is a good thing.
When things were hardest last year, and even extending into more recent months, I received more notes and texts and Facebook messages of encouragement than you might believe. Many were short, but perfect – “I love you. I’m sorry. I’m praying for you.” Some were from complete strangers, people who knew of our situation through mutual friends and were moved to reach out to me, to let me know I was not alone. In the first few days of this year, I learned of an entire small church congregation which has been faithfully praying for us since last March, a small church congregation which continues to include us on their prayer chain even into this new year as we anticipate the coming birth of our little girl.
This is the body of Christ in action.
I did not respond to most of the notes I received – I was too overwhelmed at the time to do so – but I can tell you this: All of them, each and every one, meant something deep to me, encouraged me at a time when I needed it the most, buoyed my faith just a bit and kept me putting one foot in front of the other.
As I mentioned, the notes were brief. They required a compassionate heart, a knowledge of our situation, a few minutes to write and send. Their authors likely thought they were a small thing, no big deal in the grand scheme of things. They may have wished they could do something more. But know this: those notes were important. They made a difference. They mattered. There are still days when I go back and reread what was written to me and am encouraged and awed at the love of the people surrounding me, even as the memories bring tears to my eyes.
(There are those who are very close to us, of course, who were able to do for us what those who are farther away wanted to do – loved ones who brought meals, and came to the courthouse with us, and provided shoulders to cry on, and much, much more. I do not know how we would have made it without them. But this does not lessen the encouragement and impact of a simple note.)
I am convicted. For, though I am distracted by the big things, though I dream of how I could serve God in grand, sweeping, epic ways, I am so often unfaithful in the small but important opportunities that come my way. How often do I send a note of encouragement to those in my sphere of influence, how often do I pray diligently for the needs of others, how often do I go out of my way to lend a helping hand or show love to a stranger on the street? Not as often as I would like. Such actions require me to be aware, to be involved, to step out of my own small world and put myself into the world of another. They require empathy, and love, and the recognition of what somebody else might be thinking, might be experiencing. In short, they require me to be more like Christ, something that does not come naturally to my sinful, broken nature.
I may never do “big” things for God. I may never write that best-seller that turns hearts toward him, I may never have a blog with a million followers, I may never speak to thousands. I will likely never be a long-term missionary in a foreign country, or at least not anytime in the near future. But I can, and should, focus on what has been given to me to do today – to put my focus upward and outward, to love my husband and my family and those around me well, to find ways (no matter how small I might think they are) to reach out to others in this world. To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with my God right where I am, always striving to be more like Christ.