Friday, September 26, 2014

Small Enough To Be Held

Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the Lord that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel? Zechariah 4:10

I am in a season of small.  And I struggle so with smallness.  Small can be terrifying… and lonely. Small can be confusing and uncertain. Small can mask itself in limitations and restrictions. But small can also be humbling and full of peace. Small can bring such relief.

Small does not mean alone nor does it mean insignificant- that’s what I’m learning these days. Being small compels me to evaluate the big things in my life and reveals what is currently bigger than God.

Small is exactly what I need to be to remember that He is holding me. 

I stumbled upon this passage yesterday (and when I say stumbled upon, I mean the very words made my knees kiss the carpet). 

“Who dares despise the day of small things?” God asks in Zechariah 4:10a.  The context of these powerful words is centered on the task God has given to Zerubbabel: rebuild the temple that was in ruins. The work was to be completed not by human power or might, but by the Spirit of the Lord. (see Zechariah 4:6)

The Hebrew word translated ‘despise’ means “to hold in contempt, to hold as insignificant, to trample with the feet.” As the weight of it hung over me, I realized that it’s impossible to be held by God yet cling to feelings of contempt and insignificance towards the very place He’s brought me.

God is clear: “Do not despise the day of small things.” This season of small is but a day- a day ordained by God as very necessary and significant.

The remaining part is where I find comfort and rest: “…since the seven eyes of the Lord that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel.” (Zechariah 4:10b)

God sees the small things.
God rejoices in my smallness.

I learned something about the Mona Lisa this summer.  Erwin Raphael McManus, in his book The Artisan Soul, writes about the size of this well known masterpiece.  Never having been to the Louvre, I was stunned to learn that the entire thing- frame and all- is about 31 by 21 inches.  “You could pretty much put it on the back of a T-shirt,” McManus explains.

Yet this piece of art has not lost its beauty or elegance on account of its smallness. He writes, “Great art is not limited to its canvas any more than it is limited by its medium.”

Smallness does not equate insignificance. 

My favorite quote in the entire book is this:

“Yet here we see that God’s most creative act, rescuing all humanity, could be accomplished only when he emptied himself of his limitlessness and took on the limitations of being human.  For the singular act that brought salvation to the world, God chose what for him must have seemed the smallest of canvases and the most common of materials.  To do his greatest work, he embraced his greatest limitations. Above all, he understood that the intention of the art determines the medium that must be chosen.  To save humanity, he would need to become a man; to conquer death, he would need to be crucified; to bring us back to life, he would need to be resurrected; to heal our wounds, he would need to be wounded; to free us from ourselves, he would need to become our prisoner.

The artisan soul understands that if our lives are to be masterpieces and if life itself is our most creative act, then we must embrace life as a canvas and recognize that the medium we have chosen (or haven’t chosen) comes with boundaries and limitations and that these boundaries are not to be despised but to be embraced.”

Do not despise the day of small things.

There’s another guy who understood this notion of small.  His name was Saul.  Actually he went by Paul after he met Jesus on the road to Damascus.  Saul means “desired one,” while Paul means “small or little.” He was both: desired and small.  God chose this man as a key instrument in the building of His kingdom.

Paul went by his Roman name rather than his Jewish name because of the people he was called to serve, yet I wonder if there was more to that decision.  I believe Paul understood and embraced his smallness. 

Paul did not despise the day of small things- like writing letters from a prison cell.  He used a great, big word- elachistoteros- to describe himself in his letter to the church in Ephesus.  It is the only place in the entire bible this word is used.  It means “less than the least” or “lower than the lowest.” This was a man who understood the beauty of being small.

Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ. Ephesians 3:8

His two names- desired and small- stand in opposition to each other. The beauty of this mystery is depicted in the very imbalance of a great and mighty God choosing the small, the littlest, the least of the least. To be chosen, to be desired, to be plucked from the path of a murderous persecutor, to be forgiven, loved and used by God is no small thing.  It is grace on display for the world to see.

God chose us to be small.

Small enough to remember how big He is.
Small enough to realize just how loved we are.
Small enough to be held… in the palm of His hand.

Friday, September 5, 2014

An Uncluttered Heart

In the thick of closet clutter this week I learned something: I keep way too many boxes. I hauled boxes that used to hold the stuff that’s now scattered throughout my house: a roasting pan, a fancy wine opener I still don’t know how to use, an ice cream maker, a cell phone case, a humidifier, and boots.  There were enough shoe boxes to construct a fairly impressive tower.

With each trek to the garage, I began to notice a pattern.  All the boxes were empty.  I found myself asking, Why do I keep so many empty boxes?

It might have something to do with commitment. Maybe.  See, when I open the box that holds the brand new coffee maker, I’m scared to commit.  I want the box tucked neatly on my pantry shelf just in case. 

Just in case I find out that the single serve feature is overrated.
Just in case I’m disappointed.
Just in case I change my mind or it doesn’t work out.

It’s like that in my heart too.  Empty boxes sit around waiting for me to pack up what I’ve opened and can’t find a place for anymore.  They offer the facade of a re-do, a return, a retreat from rejection. Like the friendship I took a risk on. The conversation where I let the real me show.  The promise I made but struggled to keep. 

What if hanging onto all those boxes was no longer an option?

Living with a heart free of clutter is a risky thing.  It means guarding and protecting that friendship even if it costs something.  It means being fully myself and also fully ok with those who don’t agree with me. It means letting rejection instruct instead of injure me. It means being choosy with how I hand out my yes and my no.

It sounds a whole lot like real living to me.  And it has to be less complicated than letting all those empty boxes collect dust and crowd out what really matters.

Keep vigilant watch over your heart, that's where life starts. Proverbs 4:23 (The Message)