Miniature Joys

Life is full of “big” things–birth, marriage, death, buying a house, losing a job… But it is also full of small moments– a quiet smile, a child’s laughter, the smell of new rain, a cup of cocoa.

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Often, we let the “big” things overwhelm us, and we miss the miniature joys all around us. I was reminded of this over the past weekend, as we were able to spend time with various family members– many of whom we had not seen in months because of the pandemic. Of course, some of the “big” topics came up in conversation– COVID-19, riots in cities around the world, frustrating job situations, ongoing health concerns, and so on. But the miniature joyful moments–sharing silly memories and laughter, noticing how much the teens have grown, sharing a meal, hearing familiar voices–these are the things that stay with us and sustain us through the “big” things.

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One of the weekend activities was a birthday party for our granddaughter. It was a smaller gathering, and limited to family members, so there were no young girls for her to play with. All her siblings and cousins are boys, and the grandparents outnumbered the children. We sat outside on the hottest day of the year (so far), and sang “Happy Birthday” and watched her blow out candles on a small cake. And we made a promise to phone our granddaughter on her “actual” birthday two days later.

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Two days later, we had a busy day– we were running errands, and spending time with my niece and nephew. We had appointments and important phone calls to make, and e-mails to answer. We almost forgot about our promise..but our granddaughter had not. When we stopped our “big” plans, sat down and made the promised phone call, the joy in her voice was enough to light up a hundred candles and shine brighter than the sun. Such a little thing. We had already wished her a happy birthday, given her gifts, and shared her birthday cake. But in keeping our “small” promise, we shared something priceless. There is a bond of trust and love that makes the small moments vitally important in our relationships, and in our own character development.

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And the same can happen in reverse. In the book of Jonah, God sent a gourd vine. Such a little thing, and Jonah had done little to deserve it. But God sent it just the same. A tiny bit of shade to comfort Jonah in his bitterness while he watched his enemies receiving God’s grace. Several thousands of Ninevites saved from destruction v. Jonah being saved from the heat of the mid-day sun–it seems like a ridiculous comparison. But in his selfishness and anger, Jonah missed the obvious. Yet God still provided–extravagant grace to Nineveh; the grace of a gourd for Jonah. When God caused the gourd vine to be destroyed, Jonah’s reaction was fierce and extreme. He could not find joy in Nineveh’s salvation; he couldn’t sustain joy in God’s gracious gift of the gourd vine. All he could feel was the anger and bitterness. After all, isn’t it possible that some of the very Ninevites who had been spared would have been glad to offer shelter to the prophet who had brought them a timely warning? What kind of joy and healing might Jonah have experienced in the company of his former enemies?

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Lord, please help me to rejoice in the small moments, and see Your glory in the miniature joys of life. Open my eyes to see past the “big” things in life, because I know that You are bigger than all of them. Thank you for restful moments, and fleeting pleasures; for glimpses of Glory, and poignant snatches of memory; for grins, and sips of cold water on a hot day; for old photographs, and new snapshots; for Your faithfulness, and Your mercies, which are new every morning!

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Going For the Prize

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. I Corinthians 4:24 (ESV)

I mentioned the other day that the county fair is on in our area.  Each day of the fair, young people from around the county (and some from neighboring counties) have been showing livestock.  The animals are judged on their general health and appearance, weight, height, and other factors that mark them as the best of their breed or class.  The young people are judged on their presentation, their knowledge of their animal (anatomy, breed, hygiene, health, etc.), and their ability to “show” the animal– to keep in still, to pose it, and, in some cases, to walk or trot it in a pattern.  Different shows and different judges will determine which animals are worthy of prizes and which of the youth deserve a prize for “showmanship.”  Both are coveted awards.

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The young competitors spend countless hours and work incredibly hard to get their animals (and themselves) ready for the judging.  Animals and their handlers are scrubbed, groomed, brushed, gussied, and polished.  They preen and pose for the judges, and the students answer questions, listening for instruction and correction, and show both self-confidence and respect for those in charge of the show.  They also show respect for each other, and often lend a hand (or a brush) to help someone else.

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What would happen if everyone showed up in ripped shorts or pajamas?  What if the animals were running loose, filthy and un-groomed?

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The Apostle Paul spoke of the Christian life as a race–one that we should run so as to receive the prize.  When we serve, when we worship, when we pray, when we study– we should be giving it all our passion, all our energy, all our focus.

Most of these competitors will not win the trophy or the purple ribbon– but most of them will still go home winners– because they gave it their all.  They did the work, and built the discipline, and came prepared to win or lose with grace.  The trophies and ribbons are wonderful and colorful, but the true prize is the discipline, the knowledge, and the character that are built long before the judgment day.

man wearing white sweater and black shorts about to run
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May that be true for all of us as we travel through this life– may we grow in discipline and character to be more like Christ.  He is the prize for which we work and train and run and pray.  May we “show ourselves approved” (2 Timothy 2:15).

And may we pray for a spirit that does not grow weary or apathetic; a spirit willing to listen for correction and instruction; may we show up ready to give our best, even if the prize (and the praise) goes to someone else today.

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