In the midst of packing and purging our home, and trying to create the illusion of perpetual tidiness for the next set of dwellers, I find myself staring at my spice cabinet. Well, actually, it’s more like a spice shelf, crowded and totally inefficient. There are no alphabetized rows here, just “most-used in front”, “less-used” in the middle, and “those purchased for some exotic recipe I never actually made” in the back. Also in the back are those wildly outdated containers that used to come with purchased spice racks, pre-filled with recipe ingredients that the average cook will never need. At one point, I threw most of them out. However, I did keep the one labeled “Mustard Seed.” Not for cooking purposes, because, seriously, when was the last time anyone actually cooked with mustard seed? If you know the Word of God, you know why I kept that 1980s bottle filled to the brim with tiny seeds…as a reminder of small things. Small things which lead to big things.
In Isaiah 58:6,7 when God speaks of sacrifice, He speaks of unyoking the bonds of oppression and feeding the hungry.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (NIV)
… and then becoming like a watered garden.
“The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.” (NIV)
Those seem like really Big Things to me.
It seems like a lot to tackle the Big Things.
Here’s what that expired bottle of seed reminds me: Jesus says that Starting Small is our job, and Growing Big is His.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” Matthew 13:31,32 (NIV)
Ann Voskamp began a new chapter of her own journey tossing a whole day full of small things upon her hometown without knowing where it would lead. “…this birthday spent gift-blitzing the whole town seemed ridiculously small and insignificant. Beginnings always are, I suppose. First steps always seem like not enough, but they are the bravest and they start the journey to where you’re meant to go. It takes great trust to believe in the smallness of beginnings.” The Broken Way, p. 75, Zondervan 2016
Now that has me thinking of the mustard seed beginning, the smallest acts of faith, through which God’s mighty Spirit broke through and grew His whole Church. His whole Church. That is bigger than any disciple could have possibly envisioned– before steamships transported crowds from continent to continent, before they even knew of the other lands so far away! Huge.
Here I am, tucked way over in a tiny New England state of an enormous country, an ocean away from the place upon which there was a plot of soul-soil planted with the tiniest of seeds. The mightiest of seeds. Of faith. And grace. I am part of that “Whole Church!” Isn’t that astounding?!
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20
Somedays I feel so small. Each act seems so small. In God’s eyes, in His hands, small is His beginning of something Big.
Today I did a reflective check to look for my So Small that God could grow into His Big. Strawberry picking with a young woman. Praying over a broken family. Writing scripture for vacation Bible school signs. Removing mounds of sodden trash out of the driveway of a weary and overwhelmed family. Giving my extra pots and pans away.
Maybe those so small mustard seeds will grow into something big. Our human desire to have impact in a big way can cause us to overlook the thousands of small ways God would have us join Him in His work. If we’re not careful, we will miss it all, and strangle His holy potential lived through us. If we focus on trying to be, or find, a large branch of His plan, we will miss the seed where it all begins.
Here’s to the casting out of our small seeds!