It’s Okay to Live a “Small” Life

Years ago, around the time we decided to adopt our youngest child, I started getting restless.

I don’t know why or how, but life had begun to feel like a pair of ill-fitting pants.

Over the next two years, our adoption progressed, we traveled to Rwanda, and the feeling intensified. In the years that followed, it overtook everything. I walked around with this disorienting sense of expectation, as if some life-altering revelation was mere heartbeats away.

When that revelation didn’t come, I went searching for it. I looked around and saw I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. All across America, Christian women were rising up and embarking on bold, brave, Jesus-freak leaps of faith. They were starting non-profits, adopting dozens of orphans, and blogging their way through brothels and human trafficking rings. These women were putting it all on the line in the name of Jesus, love, and social justice.

Meanwhile, I was doing nothing.

What’s MY Thing?

Surely I had something to offer this movement. My restlessness had to be God’s prodding to get off my duff and take part in a bigger life, a life devoted to world change and Kingdom work.

But where did I fit? I had three young kids, an overworked husband, and a business that consumed more time than either of us had to give. How could I fit in anything else? What could I cut out to make room for things that mattered?

I chafed at my immobility. Desperate for direction, I devoured books written by women leading the charge. They taught me good, wise, noble things:

  1. Surrender everything.
  2. Be open to anything.
  3. Give Him your all, with abandon.

Yes! My soul shouted. “Here I am, Lord, send ME!”

But where? When? How?

I analyzed my talents, passions, and experiences, certain they were a roadmap leading to my hidden calling. I wanted nothing more than the satisfaction of saying, “THIS is it. THIS is what I was born to do with my life.”

Anything, Lord

Another trip to Rwanda ensued, inspired in large part by this restless quest for purpose. Tim and I were on the same page, ready to say yes to whatever God put in front of us. Was He calling us to Africa long-term, as he had several families in our adoption community? Would the answer to this restlessness finally come when our feet stood once more on Rwandan soil?

We felt many things during our return to Rwanda. Belonging. Delight. Yearning. The land and people felt like home, and far from quenching my thirst to be there, the trip only deepened it.

Yet there was no “ah-ha, this is it” enlightenment. We flew home with a sense of closure. We would return, certainly. But as much as we love Rwanda, it wasn’t where we belonged full-time. Not then. And not now.

In the weeks after our trip, the kids went back to school, we began attending a new church, and our business’s busy season launched with gusto. With all the activity, we had little time to process Rwanda, let alone contemplate our life’s purpose.

To be honest, I was weary of searching. Our path forward was as ambiguous as ever. I felt sidelined. Why had God called so many of my friends to big things, while leaving me on the bench? Was I missing something? Was I really so unusable?

Whispered Call

Over the coming months I slipped into a season of quiet. I shut out social media, television, even some relationships. I was in recovery, or maybe hiding. Like Elijah on the mountainside, exhausted and discouraged, I’d looked for God in the wind, the earthquake, and the fire.

I should have guessed He would come then, when I quieted my world enough to hear Him in the whisper.

I’d been concentrating so hard on all the things I might be or might do, I’d overlooked the things He’d already put in front of me.

I already was a wife, called to love, respect, and support my husband. Was I being faithful to that calling?

I already was a mother, called to love, disciple, and train my children in God’s ways. Was I being faithful to that calling?

I already was a follower of Jesus, called to live and proclaim the Gospel wherever I was planted. Was I being faithful to that calling?

Sometimes going all-in for Jesus means surrendering ends-of-the-earth ambition in favor of your own personal Jerusalem. It means that after you say, “Anything, God,” you follow it up with, “But this is enough, if it’s where You want me.”

Servanthood Doesn’t Have to Be Sexy

Maybe it’s our culture, or maybe just our nature, but we tend to celebretize the people we admire. Take a compelling message and a healthy dose of charisma, sprinkle it with fashion sense, throw in social justice and a few book deals, and you’ve got next year’s Sexiest Christian Alive.

I’m not criticizing our Christian leaders, only our affinity for fame. We forget that ministry isn’t supposed to be sexy, it’s supposed to be about Jesus.

Do you struggle with this, as I do? Do you forget that being an authentic Jesus follower doesn’t always mean Doing Big Things? If you’re where I’ve been in all this striving, let’s set ourselves free right now, together.

Say it with me: It’s okay to live a small life. As long as our lives are about Jesus. 

Jesus. A simple carpenter, born homeless in a nowhere town. The man-God who left his place of glory in heaven to wrap himself up in the fragile, flawed body of a mortal. The definition of humble.

Our Jesus doesn’t need big, bold, radical action. He doesn’t need anything from us. But he deserves everything. He deserves to hear us say, “Anything, Jesus. Whether I’m on the stage or behind it, I serve for your glory.”

I’m still learning what that means, what it looks like in this little suburban life of mine. On the outside it might seem monotonous: packing lunches, doing laundry, asking my husband what I can take off his to-do list. But inside, the drama never ends: Today, will I choose anger or compassion? Show kindness or contempt? Be selfish or patient?

If God calls me to something or someplace headline-worthy, so be it. But for now He’s got plenty of work for me to do right here, in my willing but weak heart. And I have just one thing to say about that:

Not my will, Lord, but yours be done.

16 Comments

  1. Once again Alison, you have taken words from my mouth and put them on paper. You have spoken to my heart. How do you do that?
    Thank you, your sister in Christ and the battle we call life.
    Amber Roberts

    1. The same Spirit moves through us, Amber, whispering the same truths and gently guiding us through the same life lessons. I love when God lets us learn things together, in community! So glad He put these words in both our hearts and gave us space to share them.

  2. Alison, This is beautiful and oh so relevant! Thank you for writing this!
    P.S. I’m a closet Twila fan too:) I sang that song in my home church many years ago.

  3. “On the outside it might seem monotonous: packing lunches, doing laundry, asking my husband what I can take off his to-do list. But inside the drama never ends: will I choose anger or compassion? show kindness or contempt? be selfish or patient?”

    This is profound and so very true. It reminds me of Paul’s exhortation to make it our ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind our own business, and to work with our hands (1 Thess 4). I love what you’ve written here.

    1. Someone else referenced that same verse, which is very cool (and humbling) because it wasn’t part of my thought process while writing this. Not consciously, anyway. I know what I’ll be reading next!

  4. In this day of social media, everyone else’s everyday life is glamorized. In truth, their everyday life is as mundane and exciting as my everyday life. What they’re doing for Christ is just as important as what you or I do, no more so. We each have to keep telling ourselves the truth and stop believing the lies of Satan, the Discourager. Thanks for that reminder, Alison.

  5. Allison, it’s as if you came quietly into my house and read all my private journals. I’ve especially anguished over “God’s calling/purpose” in my life since my husband and I retired 3 years ago. Your blog gave my heart and soul a lot of comfort this morning and I am able to face this new day with gaiety and commitment to whatever The Lord puts at my feet. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    1. Kathee, I hope you know how much your words mean to me. I’m so very thankful that God encouraged you through something He enabled me to create. He is so good! I know He will gently and faithfully guide you as you continue to seek Him each gifted day. 🙂

  6. We’re taught to dream big, step out in faith, and move out of our comfort zones. Often when we do this, and it’s not what God wants, we end up feeling deflated, disappointed, and unsuccessful. Nice post, Alison. Gives perspective we all need. 🙂

    1. You’re absolutely right, Donna. When we’re not pursuing the right things for the right reasons, our strength wains. I’ve learned that the hard way, and hope not to repeat the mistake. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

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