The ‘little things’ in life can have big impacts
March 19, 2018
This blog post comes a little later than I expected. It’s no secret that I can be a bit of a procrastinator, although I once found this quote that I love: I’m not a procrastinator. I just prefer doing all my work in a deadline-induced panic. Yep, that’s me (or as I said during my college and seminary years: I work well under pressure).
You see, for nearly the past two months we’ve been journeying together through scriptures that relate to messages centered on Cultivate Hope. We’ve looked at what the scripture passage referred to as the Parable of the Soils can mean for us today, not only when we’re on a mission trip, but in our everyday lives. We talked about what it looks like for communities of faith to cultivate hope in their neighborhoods and, ultimately, as followers of Jesus.
Week one centered on gathering our tools. In order to cultivate hope, we start by reading scripture, by praying, and by considering what God has laid in our hearts and on our minds to do. We thought of it this way:
What are your passions? What draws your attention? What pulls on your heartstrings? What would you do with your life if money and time weren’t an issue?
Then we considered the emerging theme till, which reminds us that God not only wants to work on the untouched dirt in our lives, but I believe we are to share that hope with others. We can share what God has done in and through us – tell our stories so that we can help Cultivate Hope in others
Plant was our next topic, calling out deep-rooted love that allows us to confront injustice, show mercy in the face of darkness, and offer hope to others.
The fourth theme that emerged was tend. We considered how the process of tending even calls for pruning too; plucking out the old that hinders new growth, and I can’t help but wonder if maybe the fruit of the spirit is one of God’s ways of tending to us? Getting rid of our human nature, removing self, in order to grow more in relationship with Jesus.
Then we took a look at what it means to harvest and to Cultivate Hope. Taking our experiences (both good and bad) and living out our faith. It’s putting to use the fruit of our faith. It’s gathering up all the bits of grace we’ve been extended and love we’ve been given through our relationship with Jesus and sharing it with others, which leads us to the final leg of this imaginary journey: to share.
A random tidbit that this reminds me of is from the undergrad university I attended. It had this neat tagline: Luceat Lux Vestra, Latin for “Let your light shine.” Read these words from Jesus:
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” – Jesus, Matt. 5:14-16 MSG
I love reading scripture in various translations, because it’s easy to overlook the verses we think we know. Has this ever happened to you? You get to scripture you’re familiar with and you pick up the pace as you read through it, or you read it but don’t really consider its meaning. Reading The Message, for instance, has made verses come to life in a whole new way for me. Just as with this text from Matthew 5.
Once we have a relationship with Christ, we’re not to keep it to ourselves, but to share it with others. Like a beaming light, we are supposed to shine so that we can share the love of God with others; so that we can Cultivate Hope.
So how does this play out in everyday life? Here are some examples from my own life of ways others have shared the love of Christ with me:
The most recent experience happened over the past few weeks. My dad passed away, and while it wasn’t out-of-the-blue, it was still more sudden than anticipated. I had to quickly arrange a trip home to Ohio, and the support and encouragement from folks helped shine the love of Jesus in the darkness. I had a friend who offered to go with me, and after I turned her down, I realized it was a good time to accept help, so I did. I had a friend who offered us a place to stay. I had friends here who helped “hold down the fort” while I was gone. These little bits of light filtered through to help make a time of grief and sadness more manageable. It wasn’t about what was offered or what was done, but about knowing I wasn’t alone and that people were there, walking alongside me. They didn’t have to say or do anything; just simply be present. The light on a hill.
Not long ago I was having dinner with a friend and fellow clergywoman and someone paid for our dinner. It was a random act of kindness.
Other ways: a phone call from a friend when I really needed it, notes of encouragement, a smile from someone on a bad day, help with a daunting task…. It goes on and on.
Perhaps one of the most memorable experiences happened many, many years ago. It’s not the first time I’ve shared this, but it made such a profound impact on my life that it’s worth telling again (and again). When I was about five, we moved into a house in a small, rural community in Ohio. This was back in the day when pastors visited new community members, so the pastor of the local United Methodist Church, Gordon, made a house call. I was enjoying watermelon, apparently too well, because my dad chided me for making too much noise (it must have been pretty juicy). Pastor Gordon said something to the effect of “oh, let her enjoy it.” You wouldn’t think something so small could make such a big impact. But it did. The gentleness and kindness he showed was one of my first memories of someone modeling the love of Jesus. Even some 20+++ years later (that detail will remain undefined), it is still a fond memory. Pastor Gordon brought out the God-colors in the world, through something as simple as a comment made about a child eating a piece of watermelon.
You see, I think we get caught up in the misconception that when we shine, when we show the love of Christ, it has to be big to make an impact. I find it’s often the little things that make the largest statements. It’s in the mundane, everyday moments that we have such opportunities to share Jesus with the world.
Those everyday moments:
With little kids who need to see what kindness and gentleness look like.
With a stranger who is having a bad day and needs some encouragement.
With a friend who is going through a tough time and just needs someone to be there – not to say or do anything, but to be present.
In what moments have others shared the love of Jesus with you? When have you been able to shine the light of Christ in the darkness?
Consider the ways you can continue to Cultivate Hope during the everyday moments. Don’t wait for the “right time” or the “big thing,” but live it in the here and the now. You never know how letting your light shine could impact someone’s life.