My wife and I and our two boys were driving somewhere I forget–the destination as always being much less important than the moving together in a comfortable, dedicated space. Brennan, our four year old, had brought his then favorite stuffed playmate with him–it changes every week or so–and made a huge fuss about being sure Elmo had his seat belt on. When he finally got Sean, our twelve year old, to help buckle him up, the car quieted down nicely. So I turn around to see this little red guy relaxed and belted and apparently reading along in Sean’s book, and as the smile spread across my face two things struck me: first, I had to get a picture…which took several stoplights…and secondly, how important the small things are…
Does your faith life make you feel like this?
Mother Teresa said that in this life, we cannot do great things, we can only do small things with great love. We spend a lot of time looking for great things–great things to do that will make great differences for the greatest number of people over the greatest length of time. But great things can be seductive for all the wrong reasons. When people really are writers, they write. Artists draw. Golfers golf. Fish swim. Can’t keep them from it; it’s who they are. They may dream of the big time, but in the meantime, they’ll draw or write on napkins if they have to, and every hallway is a fairway. Or a green. As people of faith, sometimes we forget that the quality of our love is not based on the greatness of the result, but simply on the irresistible desire to connect. We forget that it’s the connection itself that is the only valuable thing in life. We knew when we were four, but we forget.
What if I really could live as if great outcomes didn’t matter, as if the process to outcome were all this life was ever intended to be about, and all that we’re here to explore, experience, and exhume is only and ever process… What if I could live real life with the abandon of a board game: cheerfully willing to risk it all, laughing at losses and gains, knowing that in the end we’ll just gather up all the little dollar bills and buildings and put them back in the box for next time–their value existing only in the real time passage of the game?
If we’re really people of faith, we’re never caught waiting for a great thing; you can’t keep us from connecting in every tiny detail of life. From an encouraging word to a smile or a hand on a shoulder at just the right moment, it’s about caring enough, paying attention enough to know when and how. And in that moment, the smallest thing becomes great–even if it’s just belting in Elmo for a concerned four year old.