Quiet and Small, It’s Okay
Sometimes quiet and small is okay. It may not make for clever Tweets or garner a slew of comments on Facebook, but it’s nothing to fear; Sometimes private is good. Not every picture has to go through the filters of Instagram and rocket into the public square, it can be for just you; And sometimes hidden is best. Not every blog or bestseller has to be about doing something huge, radical, revolutionary, monumental. By the way, this is not a criticism of the well-known voices we listen to or a critique of their remarkable work. In fact, I am friends with some of these influencers who would be guilty of burying their talents if they did things any other way–they are using their notable gifts truly for the glory of God and they are having a profound reach. So set all of them aside because this is not about them; It’s not a this-way versus that-way. I simply want to ponder another side of what faithfulness looks like.
Tonight two people came to my house to pray. Usually we have six or seven, but this evening there were only three. I made Trader Joe’s French press decaf and served Trader Joe’s sea salt brownies, because I love TJ’s that much. It was small, quiet and I think powerful.
For 46 days my sister and I gave up the same thing for Lent and went through a devotional by Henri Nouwen. The two of us did it together and we read in silence most every morning. Pretty ordinary. Pretty doggone quiet. Still I pray God has changed us through this very small fast.
Over a year ago a friend of mine picked up a struggling woman on the side of the road, got to know her family, and has shared in both their ordinary and special occasions. She’s driven them to church and appointments, bought the kids’ school ornaments for fundraisers and simply been a friend. She doesn’t tell this story from a stage because she doesn’t speak on platforms but, kinda quietly, she’s building the Kingdom.
I had two Jr. High youth leaders who used to take my friends and me to Denny’s after youth group–I consider teen ministry at Denny’s modern-day suffering for Christ–bought us burgers and listened to our urgent and dire struggles that we believed, if not solved, might end the world. They discipled me with patience and love and let several of us spend the night on many occasions even though we nearly burned their house down because of poor microwave popcorn skills. They didn’t get the chance to Instagram the smoke billowing from the kitchen for the reward of a hundred “hearts”, because Instagram didn’t exist. They never blogged about their many years as youth group leaders probably because there were no such thing as blogs. Their service was mostly hidden, but they helped direct the course of my life.
I know a woman who cooks dinner every week for the young single girls in a nearby church. She leads them in Bible Study and meets with them individually for coffee. I once heard her pray with all sincerity, “Lord, there’s not a yacht on any sea I’d want to travel more than I want to be with these girls each week.” (And that, of course, made me think of all the European coastal destinations I’d like to see and how sometimes I want this more than I desire to minister.) The mark she’s making on these women’s lives is profound and hardly anyone knows she’s been doing this every week for two years. She doesn’t have a Facebook profile.
As I’ve been pondering over the past few months, the question is certainly not whether or not social media, publishing, speaking on large platforms, Tweeting, blogging, gaining followers is wrong. This would be to miss the thinking entirely. The question is at what expense are we being drawn to bigger, louder, larger, best-selling, more famous? Are we losing anything in the pursuit? Are we measuring our faithfulness to Christ by “likes” or by lives?
I can only answer these questions for myself and the answers are not always flattering. Paul speaks to Timothy about the value of leading a quiet and peaceable life which is good and acceptable in the sight of our Savior (I Tim 2:2-3). I am yearning more than ever before for a quality of life pleasing to Him, whether known or obscure. This morning I read in I Cor 3:12-13 that “If any man builds on this foundation [Jesus Christ]…his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.” Social Media and pub deals and music contracts can be of great value but they will not be what brings the value of our work to light. This will only be measured in Jesus.
So I guess I want to encourage so many of you who are going about the daily business of seeking Jesus and loving others, some in front of enormous crowds, others in front of a few. Remember the quality of your labor is not measured in numbers or followers or sales, valid as this may be. As I read Henri Nouwen’s Lenten devotional I was reminded of how he spent the last years of his life ministering in a small community to those with special needs. At times in his writing you can sense his angst, as if he feels he’s not adequately using all his knowledge or skills, or that he’s almost disappearing, and yet his writings have transcended his life. The way he served in obscurity is now changing people in the light. Amazing how God can do this.
For “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (Heb 6:10) May we humble ourselves together? And in a world of big, let us never fear what’s quiet. Or small. Or hidden.