by Jason Braaten
“Dream big!” “You can do anything!” “You’ll do big things!” “You’re going to change the world!” It is all the rage for parents to encourage their children with these words. And encourage them we should. But something is amiss here. Not only is it a bit misleading, it also leaves out something important.
It’s an easy temptation to mistake big things for great things. It’s common for us to forget the theme that runs through the Scriptures: God works His great wonders through the humblest and most unregarded of means. By His Word and His Word alone, God created everything. Through the same He made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the mute to speak, the lame to walk, the lepers to be cleansed and the dead to live. By an unknown man, born of a lowly virgin, crucified with criminals, God redeemed His creation from sin and death. By water and Word, by bread and wine, He dispenses for our eternal salvation what He won for us on the cross.
Thus, we teach our children that they can do big things and that they can change the world. But we do not teach them that they should do small things, seemingly insignificant things, humble and unregarded-by-the-world things. We teach them that if they work hard enough their friends will idolize them. But we don’t teach them that idols are empty and their promises worthless. It seems counterintuitive, but in reality, it is precisely in small, seemingly insignificant things that the world is most changed. It is these small things that are the greatest. For faith as small as an insignificant mustard seed can move mountains.
These simple, small but great things are setting time aside to eat and pray and read the Bible and play with those in your living room. It is in giving a little extra in the plate on Sunday morning. It is singing a little louder so the person next to you who is having trouble singing can rejoice too. It is stepping outside on your porch in the summer or the winter to look at the moon and the stars that God put in their specific places. It’s doing the dishes, taking out the garbage, picking up your room. It’s doing what is asked of you by those in authority over you with joy and gladness. It’s stopping in on someone who can’t make it to church. It’s inviting friends or family over for an impromptu meal, some games and good conversation. It’s in loving those, that is, serving those around you, closest to you, in your daily life as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, employers and employees, and citizens.
You want to change the world? Great! So do it. But let’s do it as God has done it from the beginning—through the small, seemingly paltry means that work great wonders. It’s as Mother Theresa once said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”
Rev. Jason Braaten is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Tuscola, Ill.