I’ve always liked small things.
Especially animals. I even have a title to go with it. During my tenure as a “Fearless Leader” (aka coordinator) for Junior Greek Life at OSU, I was dubbed “The Fearless Leader of All Things Cute and Fluffy.” I’d like to say that this obsession with small furry animals has changed since I became a serious and mature graduate student, but it hasn’t. I still “ooo” and “ahh” over baby bunnies, and I might have taken 50+ photos of the chipmunk that lived behind my house last year. And every time I’m home over break, holding guinea pigs at the pet store with my family is a highlight.
Small children aren’t bad either. Granted, I’m not as much of a natural with them as my sister Rascal (Kids that don’t even know her will flock to her. She’s like a magnet. Seriously.), but I get a kick out of watching little kids. Just last week I was helping out in the nursery during my church’s Ash Wednesday service when I met one of the funniest kids. Sweet little Ella Mae sat on the floor for the entire hour and a half and did absolutely nothing. Didn’t move. Didn’t smile. I don’t think she even blinked. And no matter how hard I tried to make her smile, laugh, or simply change facial expressions, she wouldn’t. The girl was stoic, and it was impressive. But when her mom came to pick her up—BAM!—she snapped out of her trance and became an energetic, animated, and normal little kid. Talk about hilarious…. and more than a little bizarre.
Small countries are also cool. During my semester abroad, I was able to spend a few days in Slovenia. For those of you who aren’t experts on European geography, Slovenia was once part of Yugoslavia and is wedged between Austria, Italy, and Croatia. It’s also itty-bitty. With an area of only 7,827 square miles, the entire country could fit into New Jersey with room to spare. And yet despite being tiny, Slovenia was easily the most beautiful and memorable country I visited. Filled with caves, castles built into mountains, turquoise rivers, and—my personal favorite—a bright blue lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains, trees, and white sand (see below), Slovenia is the best kept secret in Central and Eastern Europe. To quote their cheesy (but genius) tourist slogan: I definitely feel sLOVEnia. 😉
But as much as I enjoy small things, my love for the miniature has its limits. Why?
Because I don’t like feeling small.
But that doesn’t change the fact that I am small. And let’s face it; we all are. Sure, we might be able to ignore our relative insignificance most of the time, but when it comes down to it, we’re all tiny in the grand scheme of things. According to the World Bank, there are 7.046 billion people in the world today. The Population Reference Bureau estimates that 108 billion people have lived on the Earth since its beginning.
To put this in perspective, take a look out the window next time you’re in an airplane. See all those buildings and streets below you? They are all filled—literally filled—with people. And that goes for the buildings and streets in all the other cities you’re flying over. That’s a whole lot of people.
Maybe you’re like my mom and flying isn’t your thing. Instead, take a drive to your local grocery store or, better yet, Walmart. See all those products on the shelf? And all the produce by the entrance? Or the B-rate movies in the $5 bin? Each thing you see represents entire teams of people working behind the scenes, coming up with the product, writing the cheesy description, determining the nutrition facts, designing that eye-catching label, physically making it, and then delivering it to that exact spot on the shelf where you are currently staring at it. If that’s not overwhelming, then I don’t know what is.
Now to be entirely honest, I prefer not to think about my own smallness. If I had my way, I would be the center of my own miniature universe where I can feel valuable and purposeful and relatively big.
But what if that’s missing the point? What if God actually wants me—you, us—to feel small?
This week, my pastor preached about Moses and his encounter with the burning bush. When God tells Moses to free the Israelites from slavery, Moses responds by asking, “Who am I?” He’s a screw-up, a mess-up, a failure, an insignificant little guy—and he knows it. But rather than boosting Moses’ self-esteem with empty praise, God simply replies, “Certainly I will be with you.” And that will be enough. Essentially, God is saying, “You feel small because you are small. But I AM big. And that’s what matters.” His message to Moses is also meant for us. The question is do we choose to believe it?
You see, yes, we are small. Yes, in the great expanse of time, our lives are very short. Yes, there are 7.046 billion people in the world, and we each represent only one of them. But—and here’s the kicker—we serve an infinitely big God. And by His grace, we matter. He uses us tiny people to reveal His immeasurable glory. His power is perfected in our weakness. And in His hands our lives take on far greater purpose, meaning, and significance than we could have ever dreamed or created on our own. When we follow Him, we small people can make a big–and eternal–impact.
So whenever you feel insignificant or like your life doesn’t matter, remember this: God has a special heart for all the small things—including you and me. 🙂