A Series of Small Things

Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches.”

Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” (Luke 13:18-21)

“It’s a small thing,” Jesus says. “The work I wish to complete through you today is a series of small things. Plant the seed and it will grow. Knead the bread and it will rise.”

I don’t know if this revelation is encouraging or disheartening. While it gives meaning to the series of small things my life has been here of late, it also means I may need to stop striving for the big things.

Fact: I like quantifiable goals. I like finished products. I like finishing products. I can’t do something as simple as read multiple books at a time (and much to the dismay of my characters, I’m not good at writing them that way either), because there is something so satisfactory about finishing one thing before moving on to another. I live for word count—watching the sum of my efforts rise until the small things become monumental.

Let’s face it: the small things don’t feel very monumental. Not when you can’t step back and look at the amassed word count. After all, a thousand words is just a thousand words until you’ve written them forty-two days in a row. And, yeah, deep down I know I’m still writing the same amount of words in a day, but it’s different when you see them add up. A thousand words is just a thousand words. Forty-two thousand words is monumental.

But here’s Jesus, asking me to play the role of editor in my own life (a task I like decidedly less than the actual creative writing process). He hands me a red pen and makes me watch the numbers drop as I kill my darlings. One by one by one.

Yes, this past year has been a most frustrating journey, and I have yet to make sense of it. Oh, I have tried. I kept track of my every move throughout the month of January simply because I wanted to see what I was doing with my life.

What stares me in the face now that February has dawned is just a series of small stuff: a lot of time spent with a toddler, a few blog posts, seven novels read along with half the book of Ezekiel, and too many trips to Chipotle. That is basically the sum of my January, as I see it.

“Does any of this matter?” I wonder. And when God doesn’t answer directly, I ask again. “Does it?”

And God shakes His head because, silly Rebekah, she doesn’t get it at all. “That toddler? He is my child, and you are shaping him. Those blog posts you write? You have seen them turn readers into friends. Those novels that were recommended by your co-worker? They are drawing you closer to her. The time you’ve spent with My prophet Ezekiel? That’s drawing you closer to Me. And your insatiable love of burritos? Yes, even the stranger you ate dinner with that one afternoon crossed paths with you for a reason.”

But these are all small things. Things I cannot count, cannot quantify, and therefore cannot check off the list of All the Things I Hope to Accomplish Today.

Yet God whispers into the chaos of my heart, “Do not disdain the small things.”

And I realize you can’t attach numbers to little acts of love.

“What is the kingdom of God like?” Jesus asked. And I imagine His disciples must have been as confused as I am when He started going on about yeast and mustard seeds. Because this is Jesus—the long-awaited Messiah. Shouldn’t He be saving the world or something?

But He was. And He is. Through a series of small things—a compilation of little acts of love that turn into a collage so big and so brilliant that no art museum could ever contain it—the kingdom of God is advancing.

While we are all focused on big achievements and building a name for ourselves, God is focused on things of His kingdom. Yeast and mustard seeds. The lilies of the field. The birds of the air. The number of hairs on your head.

Small things that are big things in the eyes of the Artist who created it all.

And I am reminded that I serve a God who fed thousands of people by multiplying a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. Someone’s lunch—a small thing—fed the masses.

When I stand with the disciples, wondering where we are going to come up with the kind of cash it takes to feed all these people, I am missing the simplicity of the miracle.

What is the kingdom of God like? It’s a mustard seed. It’s a sprinkle of yeast. It’s a small thing that becomes a big thing once it has time to take root in a person’s heart.

And the problem with wanting to do big things is that I forget.

I forget that I am just a small thing all along. Just a very, very small thing using her infinitely small gifts to make a kingdom-sized imprint on the world.

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