“Such a day of small things still, but on God’s time, & and that is enough: size as well as time & space count nothing with Him.” 1 January 1902
A day of small things. It seems that many of my days are made up of just that: small things.
Take today. What has dominated the hours of this day? What have I accomplished? Answer: a disconnected trail of seemingly insignificant things. Household tasks: sorting stacks of papers, cleaning surfaces of tables, counters and desks; feeding a cat, feeding ourselves – setting up and washing up the same; watering plants and cutting flowers. Oh yes – a couple phone conversations, several emails and attending small (yes, small again) business matters. Some reading; some writing. And the list goes on – unmemorable and unmeasurable “small things” slowly lap up the hours of my day.
Lilias provides perspective to “small things” bringing them into focus: “small things still, but on God’s time, and that is enough.” The context of her words was ministry and the smallness of their efforts against the enormity of the task. Specifically, at the time of her writing, was a journey into the Southlands with the intent of setting up a small sub-station as a base for ministry. This mission, begun with optimism and high hopes, was fraught with setbacks and complications – ultimately forcing them to abort their plans. She was comforted by the knowledge that their best efforts were, at best, subject to “God’s timing” – and that was enough.
When I first read these words, a couple decades past, we were in the midst of ministry: living in the manse one block from the church my husband pastored. Those words brought perspective and comfort to both of us as we considered the magnitude of our calling: he to the pastorate, me to a supportive role. There were seasons that anchored the church calendar (Advent, Lent); activities that defined the weeks and months (sermons, Bible studies, committee meetings, pastoral counseling); events that highlighted the routines (Mission Festivals, Family Retreats, Bible School and, of course, baptisms, weddings and funerals). At start.
But the daily reality was that this so-called “high calling” was, in fact, sabotaged by “small things:” conversations, planned and unplanned, about trivial concerns (potty training, a child not selected for a team). . . tension in a relationship or fracture of a family. . . hours tending to menial concerns (maintenance of building, turning off lights “after hours”) . . . The list goes on and on. So many hours spent in doing seemingly insignificant things.
How does one measure ministry disrupted by so many apparently trivial or insignificant tasks? How does one measure the value of ones work – any work – disrupted by seemingly unrelated distractions? (After all, is not ministry the operative context for any disciple? Is not discipleship is a way of living – in God’s time? Kairos.)
Whether in a life set aside for full-time ministry or a life-style of lay-ministry, the answer is the same. We cannot measure results. My question is irrelevant. What is important is that we do anything – everything – required of us without calculating the results. They can’t be measured. We are to be faithful to what we are assigned, big and small, and to do each thing on His terms – in His time. The results are over to Him.
This is both liberating and challenging – at every stage in life. There is, of course, the grand vision but the implementation of the same is made up of “small things.” Like an artist cleaning the brushes and preparing the canvas for a great masterpiece. Finger exercises for the concert pianist. The early years of childhood and youth will be defined by obedience. . . student years by exams and deadlines. . . career and/or parenting years by tiny tasks, sacrifice, caring, and generosity often unobserved. . . retirement will pioneer uncharted territory with unique opportunities and challenges. . . Small things.
Small things – but in God’s time. That is our daily – our constant – challenge. “And that is enough.”
Paintings: Travel Journal 1900