Smooshed together in the back of the Guatemalan jeep, our four teens peered out the window, eyeing the edge of the cliff. I watched as our thirteen-year-old daughter clutched her plastic bag, just in case her stomach caught up with the velocity of the sharp mountainous turns.
What a life-giving opportunity this was for our children to see and experience third-world poverty first-hand. While they’ve read about it and prayed for the missionaries who ran the orphanage, our teens now had crossed the cultural divide and were spending a week serving alongside the ministry.
We spent our days working: mixing handmade concrete from sand, painting roofs, playing with the children, wandering the markets, eating minimally, and living simply.
Our teens witnessed sheer, unadulterated joy and faithfulness from those who lived with nothing. They were charmed by the elderly woman in the market who handspun her corn tortillas, and they were humbled by the generosity of spirited hospitality.
I watched them as they broke through the language barrier by creating friendships without words.
They saw Jesus. Jesus everywhere.
I knew this was going to be the one big moment that would change their lives forever. Escaping from the entitlement mentality slowly slipping into their generation, this would be that pivotal life-changing experience they’d look back on decades later.
At the end of a particularly long day, we headed back to the orphanage’s guest house. With the electricity on, our boys turned on the TV and within minutes I heard meaningless arguing over what channel to watch and who got the couch. I heard bickering about Spanish programs they couldn’t even understand!
I was so discouraged; this momma’s righteous indignation showed itself.
Had we not spent the day with kids who had never owned, nor will ever own a TV? Had we not commiserated over their plight and felt the sting of their needs just hours earlier?
I stormed in.
“Really? This is ridiculous.
We just spent the day with kids who have nothing. Families who sleep in huts, wondering whether they have enough food for the month and you have the gaul to be arguing over a TV show, really? Have you learned anything this week?” I shamed. (I admit, not one of my best mothering moments.)
Somewhere in my slightly altered mothering mind, I assumed that this one big cross cultural experience would instantaneously alter our teens. There would be no more arguing or greed, no more demands or indulgent purchases. Gratitude would ooze out of every fiber in their being—so much so that they might just come home, sell all their worldly possessions, and devote themselves to full-time ministry. (I jest. Sort of.)
That was over three years ago, and in His graciousness, the Lord met me in a unique way following that trip.
He whispered . . . “Jen, this is not about an experience that is here today, gone tomorrow. It’s in the little things. One seed at a time. Slowly. Quietly. Faithfully. Little by little.”
I had gotten this wrong. I had placed great stock in one big experience, when in reality, that trip was about more than opening our children’s eyes to the needs around them. God used this experience to remind me of something much more important.
Jesus said, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a little thing is unrighteous also in much. If therefore you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous riches, who will entrust the true riches to you?” (Luke 16:11)
Faithfulness in the little things.
This is such a foreign concept to our increasingly entitled society which worships at the altar of easy success amidst a quick fix culture.
We want everything now, and we want the MUCH portion of the verse, without embracing the LITTLE portion. We want our food fast, our meds in a minute, and our groceries guaranteed at the curb. We’re systematically erasing patience as a virtue. The “I deserve” mentality permeates; attitudes demand perks without having to put in the necessary patience and perseverance.
Is it any wonder that I fell prey to the same temptation with my children?
Regardless of what Pinterest states, there are no 10 Quick Tips to Raising Instantly Spiritually Mature Children. (Although I did write 7 Highly Effective Ways to Raise Lazy and Entitled Kids and that’s much easier.)
I’m passionate about raising the next generation to be faithful in the little things, but that means beginning with myself, and oh yes, that’s a challenge.
For me, faithfulness occurs amidst the small, seemingly insignificant choices I make every day. Often, these choices are lonely. They are the choices no one sees and may never know about. Faithfulness in the little things means choices that rarely receive immediate gratification and ones that are inherently the opposite of what I crave.
Sometimes faithful in the little things look like sharing a cup of tea with a lonely neighbor or making that call you’ve been putting off.
Often, it’s showing up to show support when you have other places to be, or snuggling on the couch and listening, when you really just want to advise.
It’s celebrating the servant leadership of a child rather than merely acknowledging the honor roll or MVP. It’s being a promise keeper, a secret keeper, even when difficult.
Today, faithful in the little things means continuing to gather around God’s Word, even though our kids argued during our Jesse Tree reading, but last week, it meant letting our child fail so he would learn from his mistakes.
Faithful in the little things.
I want that to describe me. I want our family to be known for our faithfulness to God, to our family, and to others.
If I want to live life to its fullest, I must start with the little things first.
During this season of life, what is one tangible way that you can do this?
I’d love to join you.