Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Small steps

I've been pondering what a great gap there is between what God wants from us and what we believe He wants from us. For instance, for decades I have understood "suffering" to mean big things, like getting cancer, or having a family member die, or being a war refugee. Although these things can happen God isn't just waiting for us to give ourselves unconditionally to Him so He can put us through the trials of Job. What He does wants is for us to bear our sufferings with a greater concern for those around us than for our own comfort. And the things that present themselves as opportunities to learn how to do this are pretty mundane. Having a sore throat; being misunderstood by your spouse; being stuck in the house with grumpy toddlers.

Same thing with sacrifice. God isn't expecting us to go to a foreign country and suffer martyrdom. He's hoping that we'll sacrifice our TV time to play with our kids; that we'll sacrifice the latte we're on the way to buy so we can give the money to a homeless person; that we'll sacrifice our much-desired cozy afternoon of reading to visit someone who can't get out much.

This also applies to prayer. "Pray without ceasing" seems way too big to ever accomplish. But as has been pointed out by many wise people, prayer is attending to God. It's (figuratively) turning your face toward Him. Another way of saying that is that it's orienting your life toward Him. That doesn't require conscious awareness every moment of the day. If your heart is oriented toward Him, whatever you do is prayer: cleaning the house, answering email, grocery shopping, etc. You wouldn't deliberately do these things in a way that displeases God, which indicates that your heart is oriented toward Him, your life is a prayer, you are offering yourself to Him, even subconsciously, every moment.

Or how about gratitude and thanksgiving? "Give thanks in all things for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you". This also doesn't require us to consciously and continuously be thinking "thanks, God, for the air; thanks for cars; thanks for coffee; thanks for music", etc. We've all experienced a full heart that needs no words; we can aim to cultivate that wordless gratitude that doesn't require heroic effort to sustain. It can be a background sense, a thanksgiving that is easily stirred up.

I suspect that we have been too easily dismayed by the seeming impossibility of ever attaining to the holiness that we see in the lives of people like Mother Teresa or Saint Francis or [name your favorite saint here]. But as Terese of Lisieux reminds us, it's our trusting love that God wants; not heroism. As I learn to look for small ways that I can please God I'm finding that the opportunities are limitless, and within my capabilities. I don't need to reach for the stars; all I need to do is reach for God's hand: trust that He loves me always and will help me always.


  1. Your "no milk" graphic is all too close to home. This really was a reality check for me today. AM I offering up in small steps? Sometimes yes, most times no.

    That photo at the end is complete perfection.

  2. Great post, Anna! Full of insights and practical sense. I do have to be more generous in giving up some of my me-time, and share them with the hubby and the kids.

  3. Great post, Anna! Full of insights and practical sense. I do have to be more generous in giving up some of my me-time, and share them with the hubby and the kids.

  4. Yes, Marcia, it's an area of growth for all of us!


I'd love to know your thoughts!