Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Something Greater Than Ourselves


Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Duke University - October, 2019

Early last year I read Emily P. Freeman's book, Simply Tuesday: Small Moment Living In A Fast Moving World. In it she discusses the idea of small, which, upon querying her readers, conjured some negative responses.  Many of us, at times myself included, associate small with less. Some of the responses she received were;

Being misunderstood.
Being wrong.
Being corrected.
Being ignored.
Chaos.
Crowds.
Criticism.
Church people (it's it ok if I say, I can relate!)

She goes on to explain;

"When we think of small, most people consider the kind that comes as a result of humiliation. These are the kinds of things we say when we feel rejected. When someone says something insulting or disrespectful we say they "belittle us" If people are stubborn or prejudiced, we call them small minded. If your influence, vision or dreams are small, you may be accused of being scared or lacking faith.

And then there are the more surface ways we use the word. We may feel discouraged if our house, our jeans or our portions are too small. Small then becomes attached to too, and these two words together shape unwanted images within us: too small to satisfy, too small to have an impact, to small to be important, too small to make a difference, too small to see. 

Small seems like the opposite of spacious, the opposite of enough, the opposite of free."

She then tells of a former mentor who once encouraged her to "celebrate her smallness." But in light of the shadows that had been cast, being small didn't feel like much of a cause for celebration. That is, until a few of her readers responded with a question . . .

Do you mean the good kind of small, or the bad kind of small?

And in that they cast a new light upon its meaning.

Standing near the ocean.
Creating art.
Looking at the stars.
Walking through the woods.
When everything is covered in snow.

She then quotes a passage from another a book, The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson, who writes;

"The metaphors Jesus used in his ministry are frequently images of the single, the small, the quiet, which have effects far in excess of their appearance: salt, leaven, seed. Our culture publicizes the opposite emphasis; the big, the multitudinous, the noisy."

And then goes on to say;

"But creation invites a vastly different image to the word small. Driving toward the mountains, standing on the beach, sitting beneath the sky on a moonless night, I feel small - but I like it this way. It's comforting, like I'm not in control and I wouldn't want to be.

In these places, I'm small enough to breathe in deeply, small enough to see what's happening, and small enough to let go, to be loved, and to remember the with-ness of Christ. This kind of small carries, wonder, gratitude and peace. This kind of small leads to worship."

- Emily P. Freeman

Theologian Richard Rohr once said, "the opposite of holding on isn't letting go, as we are prone to think, but rather participating in something greater than ourselves."

SMALL IS AN INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE 
IN SOMETHING GREATER THAN OURSELVES

Recently, I shared on Instagram that I had begun work on a book. Its coming along slowly, but as I shared in the post, "a good author would probably have a deadline, but since I am writing this primarily as a work of love for my children and theirs, I am taking my time and loving every minute of it."

Quite without expecting it to evoke such a response, a few of my friends over at IG, Jennifer and Melanie (please DO pay them a visit and cheer them on!), were inspired by the idea of writing for writing's sake, which truthfully, is the only way I know how, and believe me, I've tried. For two years I blogged, juggled related social media accounts, and did my best to use key phrases (90% of which bored me to tears). I took pictures, or rather, I tried (we were living in a basement apartment with one window at the time), created graphics, and followed all of the "best practices" that only a "serious" writer/blogger would do. I paid for the right domain hosting, learned the ins and outs of Word Press, and after all that time . . . I was miserable.

When I stopped to think of the last time I was truly happy with my writing, it was at my previous blog(s), Life in the Little Nest (from our homeschooling years), and An Intentional Life, which was actually the same name I used for my "serious" blog in the beginning. In those days I wrote simply for the love of writing, and it flowed. But in my efforts to gain a following and become successful, I lost my heart and became disillusioned. So I ditched it all and went back to my roots. For truly, L-O-N-G before the experts set the standard for what deems one a writer, I was, in fact, a writer.  I've been writing since the age of twelve when I composed my first poem, what else could I be????

And then when Jennifer wrote these words, I was so inspired, and in that she launched the #writesmallmovement. In a related post the next day, I responded.

"After spending a lifetime writing, then two years following all the “rules” to be a successful writer, blogger, I have turned my back on all of it, save for writing.

The truth is I, we, ARE writers, and as for the matter of our success? Why should we feel confined and hindered by algorithms and expert opinions? When the truth is that our work and words matter, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant (only in our minds) will reach the heart(s) for which they are intended.

For me personally success (whatever that means) lies less in reaching the masses, but is found in the single soul who finds encouragement or whose spirit is uplifted by my writing. If God so intends, I will be successful, that is His work. Mine (ours), is to be faithful to steward the gift He has given. 

Ours......... is to write!!!!!"

And this, my friends, is my why, and as Richard Rohr stated so well, so that I might be part of something greater than myself. I don't write for the masses, but simply from my heart and on subjects that that I feel lead from personal experience, to speak to. I no longer do all-the-things that the experts say one should do to be successful, but trust the Lord to guide my writing to the hearts that need and will be inspired by it. As my new, but quickly becoming dear friend, Melanie, said in her reply;

"I’ve said (mostly to myself) a thousand times that I would rather my stories found a handful of truly appreciative readers than thousands who could take it or leave it." - Melanie Leavey

I've personally witnessed the power of writing small, for years now. As I have encouraged young mothers just starting out on their homeschooling journey, and more recently this past year with the series of Advent posts I developed, which was actually the springboard for my book. Knowing that there were families in other parts of the country and even the world, who were making space and coming together because of a few lines that I'd curated? No, I don't need to reach the masses. My goal isn't numbers, my goal is hearts.

I read another quote, though unfortunately forgot to note the source. That being said, the timing of it, which quickly followed the beginning of the #writeslowmovementt, wasn't wasted.

"God's job is to promote us. Our job, is to be the one He wants to promote when the time is right."

Small lives dot the pages of the Bible. I think of David, the youngest of the sons of Jesse, small in stature, a humble shepherd. But when called by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit, he slew a giant. And of Esther, a young girl with no merit or position, who won the heart of a king and ultimately risked all to speak, to use her words in an appeal to her husband and saved a nation. ". . . for such a time as this." - Esther 4:14. I believe, being lead by their example, that we may slay giants and save souls, as well. 

But don't let me mislead you, I am not immune to the desire to be known, or to share in a measure of success. And turning a profit for your work? I like the sound of that, and perhaps that will come. But what I believe is happening, at least for me, is a cultivating. A knowledge that at first must be learned and then taught, which for now places less emphasis on the number of my followers, and more importantly upon developing an understanding of where I am leading them. I've dreamed of these days, strived for them for years now. But of late, the striving has ceased and in that, the creative spark has ignited once again. 

And so I encourage you, in whatever endeavor to which you feel called, whether that is writing or painting, this mind set applies to all mediums. Even if you're a young mom in the trenches of toddlerhood and teething babies and the only creative thing you've mustered is a page you colored with your little one today. You may not realize it now, but those are the building blocks, the blue print for greater things to come, for you and your children. Start small. Move slowly and take your time. Do that thing, and then do the next and do them all to the best of your ability, and then tomorrow, rise to do it all again. And over time, if you are faithful, the miracle will reveal itself in the seemingly mundane. I am proud to be a part of the #writesmallmovement, and for all of us inclusive, #livesmall.

"Be not afraid of going slowly, be only afraid of standing still."

- Chinese Proverb



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