Getting Smaller to Get Bigger

Book Club will resume next week. For a change of pace, and because December can be full, we’re going to read four short stories you can get online. No need to read ahead, you can read the day of the post. I’ve been surprised by what delightful Christmas Short Stories exist (I don’t tend to be a short story person) and want to read them with you! If you want to read ahead, here’s the plan:

December 1: A Burglar’s Christmas by Willa Cather
December 8: A College Santa Cluase by Ralph Henry Barbour
December 15: How the Captain Made Christmas by Thomas Nelson Page
December 22: The Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke

Now for a special post today from Kylie Barker…

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“I moved to Iraq and put on the pounds, for sure!” I’ve tried this joke on a few people, and no one seems to quite get it. People always talk about how diet changes when you move or go on home-leave. But, moving overseas at five and a half months pregnant will also play a role in the weight gain situation. Oh, well. Comedy was not my calling.

All that to say, getting smaller is not on my mind a whole lot these days as I waddle around and hoist my belly in and out of cars. But, after two months in to our second overseas move, I do find myself sometimes feeling small when it comes to culture and work.

When you move overseas, it is generally in either love for the people or obedience to God. Most people don’t move overseas just for the novelty, or if they do, they don’t stay for that. Because novelty wears off and culture can get really hard. Culture can make you feel really small. Culture can threaten that love and obedience in a way that not much else can.

In my time in the Middle East, I have had students tell me that I don’t know when Christmas is, tell me I’ve gained a lot of weight, ask me why I’m running a program because it’s obviously not going to work, question my methods in the classroom, and remind me that they were right and I was wrong.

Those comments, though seemingly harmless, can hurt a lot. They sometimes make me lash out, wanting to remind my friends and students that I left a lot back in America to be here . . . for them. Slowly, I start closing in, focusing on myself, not caring what goes on around me.

But, I read today in a devotional, “Do you believe that God’s capacity to love is bigger than your inadequacy when it comes to loving others? ”

That made me stop and take a step back. Do I believe that? When I’ve run out of love and compassion, when I’ve run out of patience for these people I came to serve, do I believe that God’s capacity is bigger?

Yes, I believe it . . . theoretically. Do I believe it in practice? And if I do, then isn’t that capacity what I want to draw from in the beginning? Won’t His capacity to love always outweigh my own, regardless of whether I’m feeling elated in the culture or defeated? Should I not always draw my love for those around me from His never-ending supply of love?

I love how Sally Lloyd-Jones translates God’s mercy in the Jesus Storybook Bible, “God’s never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.” I don’t know about you, but that love will always be bigger than my own.

So, perhaps the real answer to enlarging my own capacity to love the people I’ve been called to is to more often feel my own smallness, to more often see my inadequacy to love with a love like God has.

It’s like God to work in paradoxes, though, isn’t it?

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
“He who is least among you all is the one who is great.” (Luke 9:48)

Coming to the end of ourselves opens up a new capacity we never knew before. It let’s us give up on our finite abilities and limited love and access the entirely unmeasurable span of God’s compassion. And it is not only bigger, but better.

Where are you feeling small today, friend? Embrace it, lean into it, hold onto that smallness, and let God through you be bigger and make you more than you could ever be on your own. Don’t hem yourself in with the bounds of your own being.

[1] Abide Devotional by Jessa Connolly

6 Comments

  1. Elizabeth November 23, 2015

    Yessssssssssss. I tell myself His love is big. I tell myself it’s big enough for this. (Whatever “this” means in the moment.) And I tell it to my children, when they struggle. All the love I have to give, no matter how weak or imperfect, even the belief that His love is big enough for any situation, no matter how thorny, it’s all because of His strong, perfect love. Thankful for it!

    {And many many blessings on your upcoming travel and birth and then more travel.}

  2. Amy Young November 24, 2015

    Kylie, I love this line: It’s like God to work in paradoxes, though, isn’t it?

    Yes, yes it it :). Now to just tune into them more! 🙂

  3. Anna November 24, 2015

    I’m looking forward to the Christmas short stories. 🙂

    We had our attention brought to paradoxes recently (in a debriefing conference.)  Since then, I’ve been noticing how much of life is a paradox.  The good side and the bad/hard side of the same things.

  4. Kate November 25, 2015

    I love this post, I love the notion of working in your most blatant imitations, because that’s how God worked with me. I lost my job in children’s ministry, my career, my passion and that’s what lead me to overseas work. I found a community of students and then I found the love of my life. I went back to my overseas field to find the community gone, the students had graduated, the organisations changed. I was newly married with no support structure, no church and no language skills. Eventually I found a church and felt the tug of children’s ministry once more, but I couldn’t lead children without speaking at least some of their language. I prayed and struggled but language wouldn’t come. Frustrated but determined I started writing kids ministry stuff anyway, I filed it in a folder called ‘Jesus-Without-Language’, I had some translated to use with help. After seeing need in another church I put the things on-line. 4 years later it’s a website used by hundreds, it’s a work I never expected, it’s an outreach far beyond my front door, and I still struggle with language but I know that my weaknesses are God’s strengths.

  5. Rebekah December 2, 2015

    Wow, thank you.
    I had got a little behind reading the daily posts, and started catching up today. This is exactly what I needed to hear today – isn’t God’s timing perfect?!

    I’ve been getting frustrated lately at myself for the unloving attitude that I so often have towards others. I might seem to have a perfectly loving exterior but inside is often annoyance and frustration, and then more frustration at myself for feeling such things!

    Yes – He must become greater, I must become less.
    Yes – His love is always bigger and better.

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