How To Remember Your Value When You Feel Insignificant
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. — Annie Dillard
I spent three years at Bible College. Three years of academic and emotional hard work. Afterwards, I ended up right back where I’d started. Back in Cambridge, back into a teaching job.
Every day, the bus would take me out of town, away from all the importance of the University, the tech advances of the science park, the medical breakthroughs of the hospital. My journey always ended at a tiny infant school in a small village in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. I felt insignificant and invisible. In teaching there are no big speeches in front of crowds; there’s no international recognition and very few accolades. Most days, it is just you and the children and the never-ending slog of teaching and learning.
Kathleen Norris writes:
‘It is a quotidian mystery that dailiness can lead to such despair and yet also be at the core of our salvation…We want life to have meaning, we want fulfilment, healing and even ecstasy, but the human paradox is that we find these things by starting where we are… We must look for blessings to come from unlikely, everyday places.’
As I showed up every day to teach in that village infant school, I started to recognise what was right in front of me — thirty small people who had been entrusted into my care. So I began to invest in them, to nurture and educate them to the best of my ability. And I found out that although showing love and kindness to these children might have seemed insignificant to me, it wasn’t to them. What I had thought was a small, inconsequential job turned out to be full of meaning and purpose, blessing and joy.
We like to feel that our lives are made up of significant events. We live for the miracles and the momentous occasions. But sometimes the daily act of showing up to your own life is miracle enough.
The Bible calls it faithfulness, that daily repetition of making dinner, doing laundry, caring for dependants, going to work, remembering birthdays, answering emails. These small acts of faithfulness can seem trivial and often frustrating to us, but they make a world of difference to the people we are serving. And ultimately, they reflect the faithfulness and care of God to a world that is so full of broken promises and mistrust.
As Tish Harrison Warren explains, ‘I want to do the big work of the kingdom, but I have to learn to live it out in the small tasks before me — the missio Dei in the daily grind’ (Liturgy of the Ordinary). Perhaps, in the end, this is how we change the world, one small act of faithfulness at a time.
Some questions for reflection…
- What’s the most frustrating aspect of your ‘daily grind’? How does thinking about it as a demonstration of God’s care and faithfulness make you feel?
- Where are some ‘unlikely, everyday places’ you might find blessings?
- How do you feel about the idea of changing the world one small act of faithfulness at a time?