Years ago, when I had just three kids, and Gideon was a baby, my husband and I started a small church. Small is a very good word to describe it, which is why I'm using that word. Just a few young families and a couple of single people.
Everything in my life at the time felt small. Small children, and long, long days filled with small activities and small conversations. At times I would feel like pulling my hair out, being around so much small-ness. I had much bigger dreams and ideas and thoughts than what my very young children could think at the time.
When we started our church I felt like finally I could begin to do something significant. I wanted to do "ministry", whatever that was or looked like. I loved God and wanted to give Him my very best. I wanted to serve Him to show Him that I loved Him.
Well, as I said, our church started out very small. After a few months I began to realize that it wasn't all of a sudden going to expand with hundreds of people. No, there were just a few, and they became very, very close friends of ours, and I loved them. It kind of felt like how I loved my children- I loved them with all my heart, but is this what my life was going to look like for the next twenty years? Was this all there was to it?
I wanted to do something big for God. I wanted to reach hundreds, or thousands of people. I wanted to do something more significant than going out to coffee with my friend who had just become a mom and needed advice and encouragement on raising her baby boy. I loved our church, but I wanted to do more than just forge friendships with families who'd stay over till well past midnight, talking and asking questions and learning more about God. I wanted to do more during the day than taking my kids to the park, and to story times at the library during the week because it kept them so entertained, and endlessly helping my girls in and out of princess dresses.
I didn't know what the solution was, and in many ways, I don't think I really wanted a solution, since I would have never given my job as mother away to anyone in the world, and I wouldn't trade my church and the wonderful people in it for the world, either. But I wondered if God must think I was wasting my life doing so many small things that didn't really matter or add up to much.
One night I knelt down and began praying, and it was one of those sobbing prayers where you pour out your heart and what you are saying probably doesn't even make a whole lot of sense.
I told God, "I love you! I feel like I'm doing everything you ask me to, but look at my life. It's nothing special. I'm not reaching or effecting very many people. All my time is used up pushing babies in strollers and sounding out words and making meals. Our church is so small and I've been faithful with what I feel you've asked me to do. I've sought you and I've prayed and I know you are in my life, and I feel you in this church, and I'm thankful for what we have, but is this all there is going to be? Is there never going to be a something big? Is my life never going to add up to more than what there is right here, right now? Am I missing something? Is there something you've called Ben and me to do that we've missed? I've followed where I've felt you've led me, but look around- is this all there is? Am I wasting my life? Are you wasting my life?"
Then I heard God's voice interrupt my ramblings, and this is what He said:
"I know that you love me."
Truly, if that was all He said, that would have been enough. "I know that you love me."
God saw me. He knew I loved Him.
But that's not all that He said.
"I know that you love me. I know you want to serve me. I know that you are doing what I've asked you to do. It doesn't matter how the things you do look like from the outside, even if they seem so small and insignificant. All I ask is for you to obey me. I've given you a family, and this church, little as they are, and you've been faithful to me with what I've given you. If all your life amounted to was being poured out and seemingly wasted like the woman who bought the bottle of perfume and poured it all out on my feet, wouldn't that be enough for you? You told me you wanted to serve me, no matter what I asked. As long as you're obeying me, then it shouldn't matter how significant that service looks like to you, or anyone else. What is it to you, what these other big, impressive ministries seem to be doing? These people who look like they're going places and doing big things? You follow me. Just be faithful with what I've asked you to do. I know that you love me. I know you want to obey me. Don't be discontent with where I've led you. I see you. I know you. Your life isn't being wasted, as long as you are serving me."
I've never forgotten what God spoke to my heart that night. I'm sure you want to hear the end of the story, about where God took the church, and how it grew into something greater than what it started out as; about how thankful I am to be reaping the fruits of what I sowed in my kids, as they got older, after all those long, long days that I invested into their lives with stories and swimming and walks and games and prayers.
But what is that to you?
What is it to you if God called me to one thing, and you to something else? What is it to you if I have a very loud, large family, and you are unmarried and living and working and serving God on your own? What is it to you if I have older kids who are no longer whiny and needy and take up every waking moment of my day, and you have two toddlers and a three month old who won't let you sleep at night? When Peter asked Jesus about the plans He had for John, Jesus replied to him, "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? You follow me."
God sees you. God gave you a job to do, and all He asks is that you be faithful to do it. If you are obeying Him, then your life is not wasted. Yes, I know there are orphans and impoverished nations, and war torn countries. If we saw all the need and hurt and pain people suffer every day in every nook and cranny of this world we wouldn't be able to bear it, much less continue to believe that the small tasks we have been given even count for anything. But when the disciples criticized Mary for wasting such expensive ointment by pouring it out on Jesus's feet instead of selling it and giving it to the cause of the poor, Jesus rebuked them saying "The poor you will have with you always. But me you have not always." The fact is, if you gave away every last possession you owned, and if you spent every drop of energy and time that you have, you still wouldn't possibly be able to make a dent in righting all the wrongs that plague the human race. You were never called to be the savior of the world - that job is already taken. But you have been called to make a difference. And we are all best equipped to make a difference where we are, not where we wish we were. The important thing is not to serve all of the "big" and pressing needs of humanity (like the disciples thought), but to always, everywhere, and in everything serve Christ - even in the things that seem small and inconsequential. This is what we have been called to do.
"And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him... And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ." Col 3:17, 23-24
"And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward." Mat 10:42
God sees the needs of the world, and God sees you. God sees what you think is your small, insignificant little life. He sees those squabbling toddlers, the mundane job you work at, the friendships you've forged. He sees where you've given to others when needs have risen. He sees the times you cooked dinner for your friend who was sick, where you baby sat her kids when her husband was in the hospital, where you gave money to a family who was between jobs. Yes, He sees the many, many times you've gotten up in the middle of the night to give your child a drink of water. He says, "I know that you love me."
"There came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her. And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me." Mark 14:3-6
Please don't be troubled, or let anyone else trouble you, because you aren't able to live on the mission field, because you can't stop Isis, can't fix the refugee problem, or can't cure cancer. Do the good work God gave you, whether that's your little kids, your tiny church, your simple and small life. God is famous for choosing small people to perform His mightiest works. That woman with the ointment? Scorned by the disciples for wasting what she had on Jesus? Two thousand years later, we are still talking about her, just like Jesus said we would.
"Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her." Mark 14:9
Not so small after all.