The glory of the small things
Patreeya Prasertvit | JULY 30, 2019 | 3 MIN READ
There is something about the “big moments” of life that excites me and draws me nearer to the Lord. I have an increased awareness of my dependence on Him, I end up praying more, and everything becomes more significant. Whether it is a big decision, a season of transition, an opportunity to do something that scares me, heartbreak, or a joyful occasion — big things make me pay attention to God.
Our world loves big things because they feel glorious. We flock to movies about bloody wars, star-crossed heartaches, zombie apocalypses, and life-or-death decisions. We celebrate achievements, mark milestones, and honor loss. When we catch up with old friends, we want to know what exciting new developments have happened in their life — not what was for lunch or if they’ve talked to their mothers recently.
But I’ve been wrestling with restlessness recently. I’ve been afraid of smallness. Are the things I’m doing big enough? Is the life I’m living significant enough? Are the decisions I’m making the right ones?
But the Lord has been teaching me something — to not discount the glory of the small because the small is so closely linked to the big. The person who is making those big decisions is the same person who is making small choices. The person who shows up for those big moments is the same person who is showing up for the small ones.
Author Annie Dillard’s admonition has haunted me since college: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” My small hours add up to my days. My small decisions add up to big ones. And at each moment, I am moving closer or further from the person God desires me to be. What kind of person will I be when the big moments come?
My family didn’t have much money when I was growing up. But we would save up every week so that without fail when Friday rolled around, we would indulge in our favorite meal: crawfish. It is not the most glorious of meals. Crawfish is called “poor man’s lobster,” and many people I know would be deterred by the fact that you have to peel and eat crawfish with your bare hands. Juice would run down our arms and our hands would smell like garlic for days. But we loved it, and it was a sacred tradition for our family. Every Friday, we sat around the table together and ate until we couldn’t eat anymore.
What probably seemed like a small decision for my parents — to save a little extra bit of money, to spend it on crawfish, to eat it together — became a core part of my understanding of family and life. Those small moments, repeated over the course of my childhood, instilled in me an understanding that family matters, that love and food are often inseparable, and that the best way to share life with someone is at the dinner table. Those values are part of who I am today and have withstood the divorce of my parents, moving to a different country (twice), and all of life’s transitions. The small things count.
Small is the way God often chooses to build His Kingdom. Jesus came quietly as a small babe under the cover of night. God speaks to Elijah not in the earthquake or the fire or the rushing wind, but in a whisper. Jesus’s ministry with the disciples is recorded as a series of teachings and miracles, but perhaps equally valuable in their eyes were the countless hours he spent with them doing the small things — eating, journeying, and laughing together.
[Jesus] put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32).
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Luke 17:5-6).
Most of our time is spent in the smallness of life. In the small, God prepares in us a faithfulness that can persist in the big moments of tragedy, that can choose wisely in the big decisions, and that can withstand the allure of success. And small faithfulness is not sexy. It doesn’t often make the headlines.
Biographers don’t record the small faithfulness of day-to-day living for the glory of God — keeping promises, watching our words, choosing thankfulness over bitterness, and confessing our sin. They don’t keep track of conversations that matter to just one person or the choices made when no one is watching. But the small transforms us, from one degree of glory to another, into people who see God present and active in every moment. Our faith begins to grow like that mustard seed.
The God of incomprehensible glory is also the same God who dwells with us in the small. And while our eyes are scanning the horizon for the next big thing, while our hearts are evaluating worth and success based on what our hands have accomplished, God gives us an invitation: Will we meet with Him in the small moments of our lives?
“Slowly, I was beginning to understand that it wasn’t my productivity that God desired; it was my heart. It wasn’t my ministry God loved; it was me. God was glorified, is glorified, when we give Him our hearts, give Him ourselves, and faithfully do the thing right in front of us, no matter how small or trivial.” - Katie Davis, Daring to Hope
“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much” (Luke 16:10).
Editor’s Note: This essay was originally published on Patreeya Prasertvit’s blog on October 16, 2017. It has been republished here with permission from the author.
Patreeya Prasertvit considers herself a "Cajun Asian," having grown up in Bangkok and Baton Rouge. Although raised in a predominantly Buddhist home, Patreeya now disciples and trains women to live out the gospel working with Cru in Berkeley, CA. She is part of Solano Community Church in Albany. You'll find her compulsively browsing bookstores, feeding anyone who visits, and eating her way through the Bay Area. Read more from her at www.patreeya.com.