Behind the knock at the door was a gift she had never expected—and, frankly, one she could never have imagined. The past several days had been as painful a time as she’d ever experienced. The funeral had left her numb. Her husband, the father of her eight children, was suddenly taken from them all through a horrifying motorcycle accident. And now, here was this woman standing in front of her, asking for the oddest thing: her husband’s old clothes.
What could prompt such a strange request? The reason was surprisingly beautiful. This longtime quilter saw something in her mind’s eye—all of those now fatherless children wrapped up in blankets made from the familiar patterns, colors, and textures of Daddy’s clothes, their hearts warmed by loving memories as they slept. What a touching thing to offer.
This woman turned a love for sewing into a ministry. She became the hands and feet of Jesus in a tangible, caring way. In fact, it’s the way we most often saw Jesus Himself behaving—up close and personal. When the leper came to Him, Jesus could have stood at a distance and healed him with a loud and flowery sermon, waving His hands or lifting them toward the heavens. He could have started a local clinic where those with the disease would come from miles around for care. But instead, He did something simple. He reached out and touched the leper.
We all want to be a good witness to others. As believers, it’s part of our longing, our calling, and our obedience. Yet, when we think of being good disciples who follow Christ with abandon and work for the kingdom, we typically imagine ourselves doing something big and impressive like running an orphanage, starting a soup kitchen, working at a shelter for battered women. And there is nothing wrong with such choices. In fact, many of the major charitable movements over the centuries were born out of Christian values, community, and action.
Even the smallest of things, handled with the love of Jesus behind them, can have an impact.
But oftentimes Jesus is best served in small ways. In the daily routines of life and the myriad to-dos and activities we perform, we have the chance to interact with those around us.
I saw a powerful example of this at a funeral for a tiny Haitian woman named Armande Jean-Baptiste Etienne. I sat in the auditorium along with nearly 100 other folks. We all listened as people lined up on stage to say a few words of remembrance about the woman affectionately referred to as Mama Etienne. And the oddest phrase kept coming up: “She baked me cakes.”
Did I hear that right? I asked myself.
The next person spoke. “I’d had a rough time of it. The phone rang and she said, ‘Come on over. I heard you had a lousy week. I baked you a cake.’”
And on it went. Person after person in that long line shared about this woman’s friendship, which had been poured out, along with the batter, into her practice of baking cakes. She’d made them for everyone. Was your day bad? She had a cake. No one remembered your birthday? She had a cake. She even kept some in the freezer, just in case. Whatever it was that might be worth celebrating or bemoaning, she had something for it. And along with all her cakes, she shared her Jesus. Seeing that long line of people who’d learned of a Savior’s love for them over a slice of cake and a hot cup of coffee was truly inspiring.
Many of us are waiting until we can get our ducks in a row so we’ll have the time to do something big, something important for the kingdom.
As soon as the kids are grown . . .
As soon as I finish my degree . . .
As soon as we retire . . .
As soon as we’re financially stable . . .
Certainly, we’re trying to live lives of integrity along the way, yet somehow we don’t feel we’re really doing anything yet. But such thinking underestimates the centuries-old power of just being the face of Jesus, up close and personal, whether in large ways or small.
In the book of John, we see a little boy doing a little thing. He hands over his five loaves of bread and two small fish. Not much was asked of him. Jesus didn’t say, “Go feed that 5,000.” He didn’t say, “Wait till you grow up and then you’ll do something awesome.” He didn’t say, “Once you’re done with your schooling, I have a job for you.” Instead, He took the small basket of food the boy had to offer and blessed it.
Just like that little boy, we needn’t wait for the big calling to come along before God can use us. We’ve been called to be the face of Jesus in all ways, in small ways, with the little bread and fish we already have in our own baskets. Like the widow with only two copper coins, give what you’ve got, and watch God bless it. What do you have? What’s something you could do now with the resources currently within reach? Even the smallest of things, handled with the love of Jesus behind them, can have an impact.
Many years ago in the church where I grew up, there was a woman we lovingly called “the Gum Lady.” She didn’t have much in the way of wealth, but that never stopped her from having a pocket crammed full of chewing gum. All the kids knew they could approach her with a request for a stick. But better than that, new visitors were dragged over and given their welcome-to-our-church piece as well. It connected kid to kid, kid to adult, new kid to church. There must be dozens or even hundreds of children who have a warm and affectionate connection to God’s house and God’s people, and ultimately His love, all because of a tiny woman with a pocket full of chewing gum. More than any program the church might have installed, this woman knew how to make kids feel welcome. It was up close. It was personal. And make no mistake, it was a ministry. She gave all she had, and God blessed it.
If God calls you to a big task, be ready to serve. He’ll equip you. Sometimes it happens that way. But don’t miss His voice if the calling is to do something small, something up close and personal. Caring for others in His name is never a little thing. When we insert Jesus into the equation, big things, small things—all things—can carry the power of His love to a lost and hurting world. And love, when served in earnest, is always a big, big thing.