Do you feel like the small things have become overwhelming? Tedious? Frustrating? Do you feel tired of the never-ending cycle of dirty dishes, dirty laundry, dirty cars … dirty attitudes?
Perhaps the candles have burned down to stubs, the counters and end tables have been piled full of clutter, and last month’s (maybe last year’s??) project still lies undone in the corner. Perhaps you feel tired of these loose ends of life – the cycle of doing and re-doing and doing-over – the monotony of the everyday tasks.
And you kind of just wish for that “big thing” to happen – big break, big recognition, big success, big event, big chance. Wouldn’t that be so much better than the millions of small things that crowd your life right now? Wouldn’t that fill your heart with joy and give you spark and motivation?
John 13 is shockingly clear.
The Maker of the Universe didn’t do the biggest event in history – before He did the smallest act of love.
He tied a towel around his waist – knelt down – and started washing mud and dust off of his disciples’ feet.
He, the Teacher, the Master, the Lord – chose to humble Himself for His followers with a basin of water and a towel.
He chose to do the dirty task – the servant’s task – the lowest task – because He loved His own – to the very end.
Christ knew that His followers needed a tangible, visible act of humility and service to emulate. He knew that they needed this reminder of serving one another right about when their hearts began to grumble about who would be greatest in His kingdom.
Christ knows our human hearts and their longing for recognition and fame.
And He knew that the best way to teach us would be through His very own example—
—the example and reminder that we can’t do the big thing before we’ve done the small thing. That we can’t be trusted with the responsibility of well-known and praised until we’ve learned obscurity and humility.
Picking up the garbage in an empty theater isn’t half as much fun as the cheers and applause when you’re on the stage taking a bow.
Writing for a couple of readers on a tucked-away blog isn’t the same thrill as selling hundreds of books to adoring fans.
Speaking to a handful of people who walk away without a single word to you isn’t quite the high as speaking to a packed room where dozens laud you afterward for your encouraging talk.
Prodding angry and reluctant students who never seem to change isn’t exactly the reward of which a teacher dreams.
Changing diapers and enduring screaming fits in grocery stores isn’t the “crown of motherhood” that Instagram-perfect mommies portray it to be.
Waking up every day and going to another day at a boring job isn’t the excitement and glamor of being grown up that you thought it would be.
Each one of those small things that we do is building within us a character of humility. A character that understands our place in life and who we were meant to be.
People who shoot to instant fame and popularity have to discover that the hard way – usually through a crash and burn that is public and painful – reminding them that they are not perfect or immune to failure.
If we labor long enough in obscurity and quiet, with the King of Kings as our main audience, we will soon learn to be content with the small roles – so that when a big one gets handed to us, we can accept it with grace and dignity – and do it the same way we did our small roles.
If we grumble and lash out over the small roles, chances are we won’t be able to handle the big ones very well – because our hearts will quickly trip over our own pride and our egos will crumble in the stench of our demise.
Jesus told us in John 13:14-15 – “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”
Maybe, instead of pursuing ourselves, we need to be pursuing our Teacher and Master Example – asking Him to show us the beauty of the small things – the beauty of the humble things. Maybe we need to embrace the things that we shy away from – in order to teach ourselves the necessity of humility.
Maybe we need to remember to put Christ at the center of our hearts’ desires – and the desires for recognition and “big chances” will fall by the wayside, like the truly insignificant things that they are.
Because the only significant thing in the world is becoming like our Savior. If we do – and the rest of the world sees that – it will point them to Him. And at the end of the day, that’s the biggest accomplishment we could ever hope for.