“Wow, you are really short!”
The offhand comment from a six-foot-something student was not particularly revelatory to me. I’ve been quite aware that I am often the shortest stick in the pile. Fearful that he had caused offence, the student quickly mummered an embarrassed apology. I put his mind at ease and soon several of us were comparing foot and hand sizes, all of which confirmed my smallness next to the man-children that frequent my classroom.
In truth, I am very average in size (I think) and I don’t feel particularly short or small even when surrounded by a group of football players or farm boys.
But I frequently feel my smallness in the world at large.
I have a small scope of travel and been-there-done-that experiences. I don’t keep up with the latest movies or TV/Netflix shows, popular music or cultural icons, sports teams or celebrities. My knowledge about the things that fuel so many conversations around me is small indeed.
I enjoy learning about the world and feel that it is important to be aware and informed, but sometimes I get lost in the relentlessness of spectacle and disaster and worry-about-this and care-about-this-too and shame-on-you-if-you-don’t. The sliver of knowledge I have seems too miniscule to really grasp the full picture of anything. In trying to understand everything, I wonder if I understand anything. My attempts at care and love and grace seem so small and inadequate in the face of it all.
I try to read widely, but that, too, exposes my limited knowledge and experience. In the vast vortex of words available for people to read, my words here feel small, and by extension, unimportant. I join an online writing community hoping to improve my craft, but I am small in that space, too, because my words come too slowly to keep up with writing prompts and feedback and forums.
My circle of friends has always been small. By choice I live in a small community and by grace I work in another slightly-less-small community, and between the two I rub shoulders with several people. I recognize faces in the grocery store and wave in passing on the street and sometimes hold small conversations, but I truly know and am known by only a few.
Smallness can make one feel invisible or uninvited. A spectator rather than a participant. An outsider rather than a member. A pilgrim rather than a resident.
So I’m grateful that in God’s economy, smallness is actually a way of living in the world. He not only sees the small things like little sparrows that fall, but also knows the small details like how many hairs are on my head. He praises the small offering of a poor woman, and invites small children into his arms. He reveals truth through small things like a mustard seed and the eye of a needle. He meets real needs through a few small fish and loaves of bread. Smallness is not only not a problem for God, it is the posture through which He is most free to work out His purposes.
I just want to be faithful to Him in my smallness. To see it as a calling, not a curse. To find in it great joy and contentment and purpose because that is what He generously invites me to in this small space of the world where He has placed me.