The Small Stuff that's the Big Stuff
Updated: Aug 9, 2019
We live in a culture that is all about the big stuff - big houses, big titles, big platforms, big dreams, big visions, big companies. More is better, right?
We need more followers. We need more money. We need more views on YouTube. We need more accolades. We need more.......of something.
But, I believe one of people's biggest shocks when they get to heaven is to realize all the big stuff was really small stuff to God and all the stuff we thought was so small and insignificant was really big stuff to Him.
I was talking to a man who had what many refer to as a near-death experience in which he spent time in heaven talking to Jesus. I asked him, "What is people's biggest misconception in life?" He said, "That's easy, how much Jesus loves them." Such a simple, but profound statement.
He went on to say how when Jesus told him that he had to go back to earth because he wasn't done with his mission he began arguing with Jesus as to why he didn't want to go back.
"There's all kinds of evil people there. I don't want to go back," he said.
But, Jesus continued to insist that he was needed back on earth. So, finally he relented and said, "Well, if I have to go back I want to build a shrine to you, so that people from all over the world can come and worship you there in this beautiful shrine."
Thinking Jesus would be so pleased with his answer, he was taken back when Jesus said nonchalantly, "If you want to do that you can, but me and God aren't really impressed with stuff like that. What I want you to do is to go back and change the world."
He answered, "I'm one person. I can't do that. Besides, look at the people who tried to change the world, like Hitler and Stalin - look how that turned out."
"Not like that," Jesus said. "I need you to go back and love people."
"What do you mean?"
"Love the one you're with."
"That's not going to work," he said.
"It will. If you love the one you're with and they love the one they're with it will change the world."
He continued disagreeing with Jesus. "It won't work. What if I love the one I'm with and then they walk across the street and get hit by a truck? See, it's not going to work."
"You're not the only one. I have millions down there doing my work and many angels to help."
He said he laughs now at the thought of him arguing this point with Jesus, but isn't that just like us? Jesus' answer is too simple for us. We think it has to be big and complicated, but it's not. It's simple. Love the one you're with. Be present. Be in the moment. Do your best each day and then get up the next day and do it again.
We can change the world through one person at a time. Sometimes we make change too complicated. We think it takes some big, exhaustive plan or vision, and I'm not against thinking and planning big, but the big often comes about by doing the small things day to day that when built upon one another become big.
I'll never forget the one time my brother said something to me that actually made sense. With all respect and love I have for my brother he's not the philosophical guru type that I would go to for wisdom or advice. In fact, we probably see most things from different points of view and if we end up in any type of lengthy conversation about world views, religion or politics they usually end up in a somewhat heated discussion. However, on this day he said something that I didn't have a come back for and caused me to become quiet - something that rarely happens.
"You're always on the search for this great thing," he said. (Call me a dreamer, but I can't seem to help myself here.) "You have three kids, Julie. Maybe great is right in front of you." It's been almost a couple years since he said this, but it still causes me to choke up a bit when I tell it and it's caused me to see things differently.
I'm all for the great, big, audacious, God-sized dreams. Trust me, I haven't let go of these, but it's reminded me that the big stuff is actually in the small stuff. When I spoke to this man who went to heaven he reiterated this point, about how important love and kindness are to God. He sees things differently than us. It wasn't the shrines, the huge mega-ministries, or people with the world-wide platforms that so impressed God. And that's not saying that God didn't reward people like Billy Graham for their faithfulness.
But, I think what will shock many is how equally impressed God is with the quiet, little grandmother who for years took care of her grandchildren that had been abandoned by their parents, and how she gave of her time and money to love them and serve God when no one noticed or thanked her, but she kept doing it day after tiring day. And this so pleases God!
I was at church the other week when my Bishop displayed this message in such a beautiful way. Before the service he took time to honor 10 people. Most of us would think it would be the deacons or the people with the titles or the faces we see in front of the church, but he did something different.
The first man he called up goes by the name Curly. He's a short, bald-headed inconspicuous guy and he is the door greeter for people when they come into church. Rain or shine, blizzard or heat wave he is there faithfully Sunday after Sunday greeting people, and my Bishop wanted to honor him.
When they had him come up front to say something he said, "As a little boy when I went to church and used to see the door greeter I always wanted to do that." Most of us upon hearing that would think what a simple, almost silly "dream" to have. But is it? Who's the first person you see when you come to a church? It's the door greeter. They are the first impression you get of the church. And Curly sets a great first impression for our church by greeting people with a pleasant demeanor and smile.
The last person they honored really touched me. Shawn is a little different. His hair is kind of messy. He wears glasses with rose-colored lenses. He doesn't drive. Instead, he comes to church each Sunday on one of those tricycle bikes that sit low to the ground with a flag on the back of it. And he usually kind of stinks so you have to hold your breath when he hugs you, and he loves to hug people.
But, Shawn is there faithfully every Sunday except when he's been in the hospital fighting illnesses. As my Bishop was honoring him in front of everyone in the church, I said to Jamie, the woman who usually sits beside me, "That's what I love about Bishop. He honors the people that most people would overlook."
As she wiped her eyes and her voice cracked, a woman who's battled crack addiction most all of her life said, "That's why I like coming here. He makes me feel loved." As I wiped a tear from my own eye I turned and looked at Shawn who was now sitting in his seat. He was staring at his certificate that my Bishop had given him as he kept reaching under his glasses to wipe the tears that were now falling from his eyes.
I don't know that I'll ever have this small stuff perfected because life has a way of causing us, if we're not intentional, to get unbalanced. It's kind of like trying to keep a teeter-totter parallel to the ground. It takes work and if you aren't paying attention one person goes flying up in the air and the other person slams to the ground. But, if you're paying attention and trying, it is possible to keep the teeter-totter parallel.
We all have our obligations in life - work, ministry, volunteer work, businesses, sports, etc.....that beckon for our attention. And there's nothing wrong with wanting to excel in sports, grow your business or ministry, or advance your career. It's great to have goals and I believe everyone should have some they're working towards. However, don't be so goal bound that you ignore and miss the opportunities to love the people in front of you.
And this doesn't mean you have to go around giving Valentine's cards to people year round and sending them a dozen roses. Love is as simple as a smile. It's a, "Hello, how are you doing?" to a stranger. (And actually waiting for and being interested in their answer, not just going through a formality.) It's holding the door for someone. It's listening to someone's problem or spending time with someone who's lonely. And it also means telling people you love them.
And just so you know, saying you love someone doesn't mean you want to date them, marry them or are attracted to them. In fact, it's a commandment that we love people.
Love is a small act, but it's powerful to change people's lives. I know because I've seen it. About a month ago, one of the guys in my class that I teach at prison was falling back into old habits and mindsets. He shared with us that he had started getting into altercations. I was disappointed to hear this because I know the progress he has made since he's been in my class and I know the violent history he has that caused him to go to prison in the first place, and I didn't want him to go back into this lifestyle.
So, I had the class gather around him and begin to pray for him. As we prayed for him I looked him in the eye and said, "I want you to know Rob, that I'm doing this because I love you."
Just this past week when I was running with the guys during our practice, he ran alongside me and said, "Hey, there's something I've been meaning to tell you. That day that you said, 'I love you' really impacted me. I know you didn't mean it in an intimate way, but it changed me. I haven't had anyone tell me in eight years that they love me. And I just wanted to say thank you."
Such a small act, "I love you". But what a big impact it can have on someone's life. For the first time in decades I have to solemnly admit my brother was right. Great is right in front of me. Great is playing at the park or taking a bike ride with my kids.
Great is knowing the value of today, and that I only have eight more summers before my youngest child will be grown and out of the house, and I only two more summers with my daughter before she's gone. So, I better value each moment and day I have to love them and impart wisdom in them.
Great is in saying, "I love you" to someone who hasn't heard those words in eight years. Great is in noticing the needs of those I cross paths with daily. Great is in all the small, big things we do every day to show love to those around us.