“All that is not the love of God has no meaning for me…If God wants it to, my life will be useful through my word and witness. If He wants it to, my life will bear fruit through my prayers and sacrifices. But the usefulness of my life is His concern, not mine. It would be indecent of me to worry about that.”
~ Brother Dominique Voillaume as quoted by Brennan Manning, All is Grace
It is the second and final night of the convention, and the room is lit fluorescent. The smoke machine is pumping, and the battle-cry is “Go!” because The Lost circle the earth and there are places where the name of Jesus is not known.
The music swells, the call is made, and you are suddenly clutching a 25-page, full-color Missions Trip Guide for the summer of 1998. A girl in an official conference t-shirt has grabbed you by the hands and is praying wildly over you, her brow sweaty, her eyebrows furrowed.
In the worship choruses that follow, you are vowing to be a Worldchanger. You are carried by the crescendos, hands lifted high above your head, asking to be used, asking for revival.
There has been a lot of talk these last few days about mediocrity. About settling. About being luke-warm, and you are learning to fear it all. You are learning to fear smallness and the suburbs.
At 15, you haven’t yet tasted alcohol, but you are drunk on all this passion. Your walk with God has taken on the wobbling, lurching quality of the intoxicated. You raise your arms higher, feel a wild hope rise in your heart, promise God that if he’ll let you, you’ll change the world for Him.
At 28, my life feels very small.
Most days, I stay within a ten-mile radius of our suburban home, orbiting the boundaries of our world: Target. Aldi. Our best friends’ house, with its wide-open backyard.
That battles I fight daily are small ones, not for souls but for just one bite of peas. I believe that the work of Christ involves standing between the oppressor and the oppressed, but the truth of it is that most days it’s all I can do to stand between the one-year-old and his big brother, who is trying to beat him with a matchbox car.
I know well that I have just this one beautiful life on earth and that the days are disappearing fast beneath me. I know this ache to make it mean something, to set the world ablaze.
But I am putting away the laundry now. I am asking him again if he needs to go potty. I am cutting up strawberries, picking up toys, scrawling in my notebook, and it all feels so small.
There has been a shift in the Christian culture and I feel it like a fresh breeze. Our collective consciousness seems to have awakened to the reality of injustice. We are learning that we cannot preach the Living Water without also building wells; that Good News to the starving includes both the Bread of Life and actual, physical loaves.
I love the ways people and organizations and ministries are orienting themselves toward clean water and holistic healing and making the world better.
I will admit that I sobbed through the Kony 2012 video. All those children. All those signs. A generation coming together to change the world.
But then, there it is again. That quest for bigness. I feel it in my heart in the same way I felt it as a 15-year-old. It is intoxicating and heady and I am impassioned to do something great. Start an organization. Raise a million dollars. Change. The. World.
And then the kids wake up from their naps, crankier than satan, and the dinner has to be made and I feel the smallness close in on me again.
This quote from Brother Dominique stopped me entirely when I read it. The usefulness of my life is His concern, not mine.
It speaks to the 15-year-old girl in me who learned that my life was wasted unless God used me in some world-changing way. It speaks to the 28-year-old woman who spends a lot of time rewashing the dishes that the dishwasher left crusty.
As it turns out, my responsibility is not to change the world. It is to lean into the wild love of God. To be moved by it. To crawl into its bigness and find myself different there.
Whether the things I do change the world is not my concern. My work is to let my heart expand in that holy, mysterious love so that when I meet the orphan or the widow or my neighbor or brother or enemy, I have something to give them.
God’s love is place and power and hope and healing, and it has changed the world before. It will change it again. It will change the world every day of my small, big life.