One Obituary, One CD, One Shipping Confirmation – The Size of Grace


Do you ever despair that your life is so small?

Do you ever wonder how your tiny contribution to the world stacks up against the titanic projects and ministries of others?

When you hear a sermon or read a book about someone who has launched a mission or reached thousands, do you look around at the children in your home waiting to be fed, taught, and disciplined

or the loved one awaiting your caretaking

or the office where you work to keep up your medical coverage,

or the bed to which you are currently confined

and feel as though your tiny contribution to the world could easily have been skipped and the kingdom of God would be just as grand?

As I sit in the kitchen of my unremarkable house in a town with a population of 2000 in the smallest state in the union, I must confess, I can relate.

(Hope Valley isn’t even technically a town. It’s a village that measures 3.5 sq miles. Okay, and my house isn’t technically unremarkable. People make remarks about it all the time like “Do people actually live in that place?” or “Wow, I thought they were tearing that down.” But I digress.)

It’s human nature (mostly sin nature, I believe) to compare. It’s not all bad to reflect on our lives. When we do, sometimes we realize there’s an opportunity before us to take a risk and to grow. Big isn’t bad but it isn’t all that matters. Since we’re not to be the final judges of our work, comparison can be dangerous if we only use a single criteria like size.

In my daughter’s college writing course, the professor is rightly encouraging students to focus on content, not grammar or spelling, for their first draft. She finally had to resort to penalizing students for making grammar and spelling corrections when reviewing their first drafts. When students protested, she insisted that since she was teaching and grading, she was probably the best judge on where they should place their efforts.

We don’t learn that lesson easily.

God has made me aware lately of how small things add up – like pennies spent and calories eaten – every little bit accumulates to create a bigger picture.

Recently, I watched someone make an agreement at work and break it moments later – without regret. It was a small thing but it drained some of the color out of my world that day. In another moment, I caught someone in a lie. It was a small lie, but again, the vibrant color of my day felt faded and washed out. Then, someone’s careless, inconsiderate choice to leave a mess for me that they should have cleaned, pushed me closer to feeling like life is gray and without radiant hue.

But then, I read the obituary of an older gentleman who used to frequent the workout room at my Y. Seeing his face on the page brought back a flood of happy thoughts as I recalled stories, jokes, and proverbs he used to share. All I knew of him were our little exchanges but they’re a warm, bright spot in my heart and the light of these touches of grace infuses my day with renewed color.

Yesterday, my son received a CD from a musician friend. My son has been struggling a bit but as he read the CD notes, he saw that one of the songs had been inspired by him. The songwriter mentioned him in the notes for the time Zack spent rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It was a small touch of grace that to him (and to me) felt like a lifesaver the a wide ocean of “twenty-something” stormy seas.

Then, I received a shipping confirmation email for a small order I’d placed yesterday online. But it was no simple confirmation. Someone actually designed the receipt to tell a little story about how special my order was treated, how everyone who handled it thought about me, and how they were thankful and celebratory when they walked the order to the post office and sent it on its way.

It was silly but in a small way, it added High Definition to my morning. Someone saw a simple shipping confirmation as an opportunity to spread joy, laughter, and random kindness into the world.

These small touches of grace add up quickly in a graceless world.

When I was a stay-at-home mom, with a traveling husband, I sometimes despaired of participating in the world in a larger way. I knew my ministry with my family was worthwhile but I wondered if I was missing other opportunities.

Knowing God had called me to be right where I was, I asked Him to open my eyes to the ministry that was in my path. Suddenly, I was flooded with understanding about the countless moments I had to impart a simple touch of grace on grocery store clerks, bank tellers, video store attendants, and other moms. Apparently, the only small thing in my world had been my perspective.

(As I write that line, I realize that today, many of us can operate without encountering either a grocery store clerk (automatic checkout), a bank teller (ATM), or a video store attendant (Netflix)! Wow, how technology has changed our opportunities for interaction! But I believe God still knows where the opportunities are and will show them to anyone who asks in faith!)

I tell my weight loss students that all-or-nothing thinking is risky-business. It’s better to cultivate a mind-set that every little bit adds up (as in calories eaten and calories burned).

The same is true for the ministry of imparting grace into a graceless world. Every moment you have to breathe the breath of Jesus into a situation, an exchange, a moment adds up to form a greater picture that will, eventually, be judged by the One who knows the true measure of all things.

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Link to American Merman, CD by Grant Maloy Smith containing a song inspired by Joe and CC Crowley for their work in Haiti and Zack Roeleveld for his work in Mississippi in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. http://www.grant-maloy-smith.com/music/americanmerman/


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1 Comment

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  1. Leslie Payne says:

    Yesterday I was so blessed by my husband doing exactly what you write about. We live in a condomimum development. He came home from the gym to discover two heavily tatooed, body pierced, pink and orange haired young women from our building trying to change two tires on their car. Though tired, my 65-year old, straight laced, military man who always wears dress pants (never jeans) changed both tires for them. Don’t know if they know the word “blessed” but their smiles revealed that’s how they felt.