I was chatting with Mom on the the phone the other day when she said, “Hey, do you remember that blog we used to write on?” It all came flooding back. I meant to write something on that blog! Of course this was probably a week and a half ago by now, but in the meantime we have had a birthday, a holiday, a mini family reunion, and I have stared down the laundry with an unflinching gaze. There is always a lot to be distracted by, caught up in, and busy with. A lot of little things. And that is good!
The last few weeks I have been really focusing on the all-important issue of when to run the dishwasher. It’s true. If I run it after lunch, it is perfect. But only if I unload it in the afternoon, so that it is empty when I start dinner. Ideally, I unload it at the same time I set the table for dinner – right around 4:00. But if I do not unload it in the afternoon, things start going south, because then I can’t put the dirty things in while I am making dinner. If I didn’t unload it early, I probably didn’t set the table early, and if I didn’t set the table early, then probably everything will feel wild at dinner. When everything is wild at dinner time, well then, that is what happens.
If we sit down without drinks, or with silverware slapped at odd intervals around the table, then the chances increase by possibly 400% that we will also be correcting children for standing up in their chairs and grabbing pasta with their fingers. But when I run the dishwasher after lunch, unload it early, set the table early, and pour drinks before we get there, we find Titus standing behind his chair waiting for me to sit down, children using all the manners that we know they know, and a general calmness descends on dinner. When this all goes right, the children are more than capable of clearing their places and putting their dishes in the dishwasher – a thing I don’t want them to do when the sink is full of raw chicken juice, and the dishwasher full of clean dishes.
Organization and dishwasher running are not the only things that are little about motherhood. Your days are full of little questions, little answers, little puzzles, little problems, little concerns. Little disobedience. Big disobedience over little things. This can be very discouraging to any mother. What have I ever done that was important? What, in the course of my regular day, matters? Is this hot new system for containing playmobil really as big of an accomplishment as I think it is? What happened to me that I think this is important?
Even the temptations to sin are little. Getting huffy about water on the bathroom floor. Falling into full fledged worry over a diaper rash, a cold sore virus, or a teething baby. Stumbling into pride over potty training, homemade bread, or well dressed children. Getting selfish over a moment with your coffee. Feeling that somehow the smallness of it all justifies the sinfulness in your attitude. Feeling completely fine venting your little sin over your little problem, or indulging your little pride over your little accomplishment.
Because, after all, as we can all see, this is LITTLE. Can I not indulge in a little fuss? Can I not have a little harsh word? Who wants to spend their whole day focusing on something as little as an attitude? Who would ever think that my demeanor towards mopping matters? Don’t tell me that this is a big deal, because I know about big deals, and this is not what they look like.
I am sure that most of us are familiar with the wonderful verse in Luke, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much” (Luke 16:10).
The thing that I have been thinking about lately is that this verse isn’t just talking about the little things as though they are qualifiers for things that might actually matter. It isn’t telling us that if we are faithful enough with little things, eventually we will get a shot at something that might matter. I think that a more accurate understanding of this verse is that the more we are faithfully disciplining ourselves, controlling ourselves, confessing our sins that are tiny, the more the little things we do are actually big. They are not little anymore, when we are faithful in them.
God uses faithfulness to transform the little. It will not stay little in the presence of faithfulness. Conversely of course, lest we ignore the second half of that verse, unfaithfulness also transforms the little. A little sin, unchecked, has big consequences. A little indulgence, a little anger, a little selfishness, a little ugliness, these are the things that destroy lives.
This should be encouraging! What we are doing day by day is actually big stuff. And not just in the “way down the road, someday, something about this might turn into something.” It is already something big.
As we all spend our days dealing with the little things, we need to see them as big things. Don’t make excuses or ignore your little sins. Don’t treat your little problems as though they are beneath your attention. Don’t be ungrateful for the mental and spiritual journey surrounding turning on the dishwasher at the right time. God tells us that the little things matter over and over. He tells us that He cares about them, that He watches over even the tiniest of sparrows. He wants us to see the little too. Not in some kind of weird, narrow focus that makes no sense. But with faith, and in faith, knowing that in the presence of faithfulness, the littlest things grow.