Size matters. Lately I have been feeling small. No I haven’t lost weight, and it isn’t because I am short. I have been feeling small because of War, the Ukraine, a cemetery, and the outlet mall. Each of these I encountered last week and it got me thinking about how small I am.
We have a little bichon frise dog who gets really excited about talking a walk. She holds in her poop and pee and saves it for the special occasion of being harnessed and leashed for her walk, and wants to leave her mark somewhere other than our back yard. She also gets really excited when she sees other people on our walk. One day last week we met a man who wore a bill cap hat that was embroidered with something about his military service. After asking if he would say hello to my dog, because she is dying for attention and loves getting pets on her walk, I asked about his hat. This question opened a wide door to me learning more about his service to our country. Now being that I am not too familiar with military service, I listened and had to ask him to clarify things that he said here and there in the conversation. He served in the Iraq war, and I was too embarrassed to admit that I knew little about it. During the beginning of the war I had stopped watching the news. Postpartum stuff hit me hard after the birth of baby number 3 born in 2002 and the news was too overwhelming and depressing. For my survival I shut out a large part of the world. What I gained from talking with my neighbor was the fact that there is a very large world out there, beyond my nice suburban way of life. He lived in it and now has to live with the effects of it (ptsd). I felt grateful for my nice peaceful life, when many more like this man that I was talking with had worked hard and risked their life for my suburbia. I felt small in the midst of this man’s life experiences.
After ending the conversation my little dog and I traveled on. As we were walking past the newly constructed houses that are being built behind ours, I passed two of the construction workers. I politely said hi to the one man who was sitting in the driver's side of his work truck. In the midst of exchanging niceties, we started an interesting conversation. He was originally from the Ukraine. He told me stories of how things were there when he was a boy, how corrupt the government was, and how much people distrusted each other, and how his father wanted to get his family of 12 children out. This man had a Russian type accent and was about 10 years younger than myself. As he talked freely of the history of his country I felt small because at times I didn’t know what he was talking about. I think at the time he was experience life as a 9-year-old boy, I was living mine as 19-year-old girl. This conversation made me realize more acutely that there is so much going on around the world that I have absolutely no idea about and how small my own world is, even when I am so wrapped up in what is going on with me and think it is such a big deal. It is weird to think that at about the very time he and his family were trying to get out of their country and were risking their lives to do so, I was just wanting to get out of town for the weekend to go to the beach.
A day or two after these conversations I was downtown with my 14-year-old son. Years ago we visited the cemetery in that area and walked around reading headstones. This cemetery is on a main street and we drive past it often. What is really interesting about it is that the headstones have really old dates on them. The cemetery was opened some time in the 1840’s. So reading headstones is a weird thing to do, I know, but it is really interesting when you read them and consider that they mark the remembrance of a life lived. Some of the stones made me sad, like the one of a very young woman who was only 21-years-old at her death. I wondered what cut her life so short, was it disease or was it childbirth? Other stones made me feel glad that the person who was buried beneath had gotten to live into their 60’s (I am guessing that would be a long life for their time). What struck me was that there were so many people buried there that I knew nothing more about them than what their headstone said. I knew that there was so much more to their story. That was only one cemetery, in one town, in one state, in one country. There are so many people who have lived on ahead of me and their story will never be known, they didn’t make the cut of the history books, but their life was just as much valid and important. I had to come to terms with the fact that their fate is the same fate of mine. I will live and then die and probably won’t be remembered too far into the future. It made me feel small and it made me wonder how I should be living my life out even if my story only makes a small mark on this planet.
Three days later I took my 16-year-old son to an outlet mall about 15 minutes drive north of our home. Oh my, how I hate going there on the weekends! It was crawling with people. We walked into the Nike store and I was amazed at how many people were in the store. They young man who greeted us said that things had actually slowed down and that it was even more crowded earlier. Thank goodness we were not their earlier. Now, I really like people and fancy myself a real people person, but this crowd in a closed-in space was making my stomach feel a little weird. Another sensation I get when in a crowd of people is the overwhelming awareness that God made all of these people and knows everything about them and loves them. I am one in a billion of the people who walk the earth right now and crowds remind me of how small I am.
All of these experiences of last week don’t make me feel insecure, that is not what I mean by feeling small. I know that I have a place in this world, but in comparison to the whole world of people who lived before me, all the people who live in other places than me, and all the people who share the same area of the world that I live on, in relation to them I am 1:1,000,000,000 (roughly). That is a small ratio! This makes me think of another ratio that is extremely important. Ratios are all about one thing being compared to the size or amount of another thing in the math world. So when I consider God almighty, creator of the heavens and earth, of things seen and unseen, I realize how very small I am. He is my creator. I exist and am alive because of Him. This is the very realization of my ratio of me to him. He is great, I am not. This is His world and about him and not me. He wants me to be humble. He wants me to be humble in a world that exalts man and what man can do. This is sometimes hard to do, but he wants me to realize who I am in light of Him. Humility means to know your place and act accordingly. In light of who God is, my place is not to go around thinking I’m something great and promote myself, but to promote how great He is. This actually is such a relief. It is a heavy thing to always want to make your own name be known and worrying about how you are seen by others. It is a joyful thing to point to Him and make Him known to others.
Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is the place of my rest?
2 All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word.
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
"God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.
For those who are believers in Christ Jesus and have decided to follow Him, the only way is to humble yourself before God. We are saved from sin and death by the grace of God through faith in Jesus and it is our privilege to walk in humble obedience to him by the power He gives us in the Holy Spirit. “ For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7.
I am often faced with how small I am, I think God really wants me to get that and let it sink into the marrow of my bones! He keeps me in a humble state in life as the caretaker of our little home. It is private volunteer work that doesn’t get a paycheck or win an award like an Oscar. But really, life isn’t about our station, but how we live and whom we serve. This next verse sums up a simple and small life beautifully:
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Do you ever feel small? Do you too want to leave your mark on the world? Knowing that I don't have to be great. because God created me to be me, great or small, helps me relax and know that my life will matter in the small things that God calls me to.
I may not make a great mark on this world and be in the history books, but I want to make a great mark of faith in Christ expressed through love. I want to mark the world around me with the colorful markings of the love of God. For that is the real stuff of life, great or small.