I got into an argument with a physicist at an aforementioned party a while ago. He was trying to persuade me to do a phD and somehow we tangented onto talking about what was more effective, changing a society from the top down, earning yourself accolades and affects millions of people for years to come or changing the society from the bottom up, making a small or large impact in the lives of individuals. I don't think there is anything wrong with the first option, I only know that I am called to the second. I used to think that I would and could change the world singlehandedly. Mainly I wanted to write books that had a massive impact on a lot of people. My 12 year old journals read like a cringe-inducing episode from Dawsons Creek!
I don't know when my attitude changed. I think it's been a gradual thing, in fact I would go as far as to say that it's been a recent thing and I can pinpoint at least one critical moment where I suddenly became more aware of it.
My time in Grenoble was a steep learning curve. It was amazing to be on the receiving end of so much kindness. I discovered firsthand how small gestures like being invited round for lunch or people wanting to share time with me and not just smiles could have such a massive impact on an individual. But at the same time I found it incredibly frustrating to always be on the receiving end. I wanted to be giving too. Yesterday I heard it put well that it's hard to be yourself in another culture and even more so another language. It took me months before I could truly be myself in the french language and of course this restricted what I could do. And I don't think I fully realised that until I experienced it firsthand. It was basically like being thrust from being mega-extrovert into introvert overnight and twas a bit of a shock to the system for sure! People wouldn't necessarily take my suggestions so seriously, wouldn't necessarily ask me to do stuff or help out or being involved in things because I was a foreigner and didn't really know/understand what was going on (which was sometimes true). It was incredibly frustrating. But I do remember, sometime later in the autumn, something clicking in my head. I discovered that I could love God and the people around me through doing small things, like cleaning the tables after youth group at church, playing with kids, or helping out the internationals whose french was even worse than mine when they didn't understand what was going on.
France has only been one small part of this learning/realisation/eye-opening process... I always envied my friends who had felt like they had a strong calling, vision or passion, friends who are passionate about certain countries for example and know they're going to end up there for a large part of their lives. But without my even realising it, I've started burning with a heavy passion too. I want to be someone who makes every moment of life count, who loves individuals practically, with everything I am and have. And though I have seemed to be laiden with a particular burden for a particular need, everyone needs that kind of love! And I don't want to miss people just because I have my eyes trained on a certain group or need. I'm beginning to realise and see for myself that the Kingdom of God starts small and in an understated way... and it's beautiful because it is full of Jesus and His character and it's what lasts. I just need to have my eyes open and be willing and ready to act on what I see... (easier said that done of course!)
I leave you with 2 quotes.
The first an extract from a book I love that has a lot to say about small things and mustard seeds:
Re: John 14:2 “… I began to discover “the greater things”. It was not just miracles. I started to see the miracles were an expression not so much of Jesus’ mighty power, as of his love. In fact, the power of miraculous spectacle was the temptation he faced in the desert – to turn stones to bread or to fling himself from the temple. But what had lasting significance were not the miracles themselves but Jesus’ love. Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead and a few years later, Lazarus died again. Jesus healed the sick, but they eventually caught some other disease. He fed the thousands, the next day they were hungry again. But we remember his love. It wasn’t that Jesus healed a leper but that he touched a leper, because no one touched lepers. And the incredible thing about that love is that it now lives inside of us. In the verses just after the one about the greater things. Jesus assures us that the Spirit now lives in us. Jesus says that he is going to the Father but will also remain inside of us and we in him. We are the body of Christ, the hands and feet or Jesus to the world. Christ is living in you and me, walking the earth. We shall do even greater things because the love that lived in the radical Christ now lives within millions of ordinary radicals all over the planet…I know miracles are real, story after story comes to find. But beyond the miracles, what has lasting significance is love. We can do all sorts of miracles, but if we have not love, it is nothing…”
And the other from Mother Teresa:
"We can do no great things, only small things with great love."