Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Importance of Little Things

I have a Women of Faith NIV Study Bible, which I like a lot.  The margins feature scripture explication, mini-devotionals, snippets of hymns, and poetry.  Yesterday, I came across this poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, amongst the pages of Jeremiah:
I was too ambitious in my deed,
And thought to distance all men in success.
Till God came to me, marked the place, and said,
"Ill doer, henceforth keep within this line,
Attempting less than others" -- and I stand
And work among Christ's little ones, content.
I had to read it more than once to let it sink in, and the words spoke to me.  For years, I've been struggling with the impression that I am not doing enough with the gifts given me, that I should be doing more or being more.  That I should be giving back more to the world.  Perhaps it was delusions of grandeur.  I don't know.

Our culture, of course, is no help.  Women's magazines are riddled with articles on how to juggle everything and do it fabulously.  You can have it all and look younger while you do it!  Just look at these women entrepreneurs/mommies, making big bucks or making a difference in the world or -- even better -- making both!

Then there are the women I actually know who use their gifts wonderfully well: giving, serving, teaching, leading, following their dreams.  Their calendars are packed with things to do and places to be.  I've heard that some women consider their activities and responsiblities as a kind of competition between them and their acquaintances.  Happily, I've never met any of this ilk, but I do lead a bit of a sheltered life as a homeschooler.  Regardless, I've come to a (small) conclusion about these busy superwomen:  they must need less sleep than I.

The funny thing is, I've never felt pressure to "measure up" to any real person.  I've only felt internal pressure that I wasn't living up to my God-given potential, that I wasn't doing all I was meant to do, that I wasn't doing something BIG.  After all, I don't have these gifts for nothing, do I?

And that's why this poem got my attention.  I am using my gifts.  For one, I teach, not just my own children, but children at church and Scouts.  And I know these are important services.  Where I got messed up was in my thinking that my efforts were somehow less than because my sphere of influence is small and my audience (for lack of a better word) is young.  And that, my friends, is the world talking.

To God, none if it is small.


  1. Ellen, what a beautiful post to read. It speaks close home. Once out of the professional sphere, I feel more invisible, but then I remember CM when she describes magnanimity. The magnanimous is that wise person that has no problem in doing small (and I add unseen) tasks with humility and devotion. (I'm paraphrasing). And I remember a lesson were we were told that God's wisdom (and men and women TRULY WISE) are those who serve Him in humility, no more no less.
    We believe our talents or deeds are measured in grandeur as you say, by how the world regards them, but our talents are being used as you say. I also teach the children at church, and when we correct our kids, feed them, read the Scriptures to them, we are making the world a better place.
    Honestly the Nobel Price has no appeal to me but the love of my Father and a kiss from my daughters.

  2. Hmmm, Silvia always say things better than I...

    We have just finished up a series of sermons on gifts at church, based on the controversial chapters in 1 Corinthians. I too have been pondering this very issue, and have come to the same conclusion. In teaching God's small people we are using our gifts to further his kingdom and bring glory to him, and that, after all is what it is all about, not measuring our deeds by the measure of the world and their magnificence to men.

    Thanks for sharing, friend.

    PS Your Bible sounds lovely.


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