I have to confess, I’m not a big news follower. I get my 3-minute blip from the local NPR station, and sometimes even that is too much (especially if the kids are in the car). While I know it’s important to be aware of what is going on in the world (especially so we can pray) it can all become a little overwhelming. In the light of such over-arching tragedies – the endless permutations of violence, loss, grief, disaster in a world seemingly hell-bent on, well, hell – I can begin to feel powerless. What can I possibly do in light of such evil?
In this age of global-everything, it is perilously easy to believe that if we are not having a measurable impact on the world that what we are doing doesn’t matter, that God must not have a place for us, that our little lights are too insignificant to defeat the darkness.
Big Small Things
This summer, my baby came down with a rare disease that caused her kidneys to shut down. During this time, the news was abuzz with shootings, baby Charlie, and natural disasters. It seemed too much. How could I deal with it all? My own cross was all I could carry.
It was then that T. S. Eliot’s words hit me yet again:
I sat against the shore
Fishing, with the arid plain behind me
Shall I at least set my own lands in order?
You may not be called to be a huge internet presence, have all the followers and convert the masses, to lead rescue missions or rebuild towns, to be a missionary to China or whatever it is that seems important to you. But if you look around, I can guarantee you that God has put people and places in your life that need you.
The Big Picture is Made Up of the Small Details
While it’s easy to get sucked into the “think global” mindset, God, who is infinite, is infinitely small as well as infinitely big (to paraphrase L.M. Montgomery). The smallest town, the tiniest problems, the quietest person, all are just as important to Him as the “big picture.”
Indeed, without these so-called little details, there is no big picture! It may not seem so grand or important to be a lily of the field, here today and gone tomorrow, but the lily gives praise to God and glorifies Him as the God of lavish beauty. Our little corner? It needs to be sanctified. I need to bring God here, right where I am. We, like God, must not be afraid or ashamed to think small.
Set Your Own Lands
Where to start, you ask? With yourself. Here are a few suggestions to begin.
1. Pray more.
Think small. Put down the phone, close the computer, and say a Hail Mary. Take 5 minutes during the Hour of Mercy and say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
2. Sanctify your space.
An icon in the kitchen, a bible verse on the mirror, a prayer corner in the bedroom, a “little oratory” in the living room. Find a way to make your space holy. After all, we are physical creatures, and the things we surround ourselves with affect our mood, outlook, and focus. Fill your eyes with the sacred.
3. Receive the sacraments.
Pick one day during the week to go to Mass. Find a parish by your home, school, or work that offers Adoration, and dedicate yourself to an hour. Have a firm Confession date set once a month. Whatever you are doing now, find a way to “up your game” with God. He’s waiting for you!
4. Limit your time on social media.
While we can find encouragement and even friendship on the internet, sometimes it pulls us away from the present, away from the moment where God has us. Set a time limit for the screen and find another go-to for those moments of stress or let-down.
5. Evangelize, here and now.
When we pray the second Joyful Mystery of the rosary in my house, we ask for the grace to bring Jesus to the people around us and to recognize Jesus in the people around us. Evangelization doesn’t have to be a scary “share Jesus” moment all the time. Take the time to smile at the person you pass in the hall every day. Pray for the driver who cut you off. You know someone who is lonelier than you think. Find that person and be a friend. Visit your elderly neighbor. Don’t gossip about your co-worker. Talk to your family. Read your kids a story. Be polite to the telemarketer. Treat every person you encounter as you would treat Jesus.
6. Be realistic.
Set reasonable goals so that you’re not constantly overwhelmed. Satan loves to use the feeling of drowning to convince us that we can’t set our lands in order. Pick a day for laundry, another for grocery shopping, another for thorough house cleaning. Get rid of stuff. Be reasonable about project deadlines so that the rest of life gets its fair share of time. Make sure you’re being a good steward and tithing regularly.
7. Start a gratitude journal.
And use it every day. There is absolutely nothing you can do that will jumpstart your spiritual life more than the habit of being thankful. No matter what you are going through, you can find things to be thankful for. A bird chirping. Finding your favorite pair of socks. The man who let you get in line ahead of him. God showers us with His graces every day; sadly, we so often are busy comparing or grumbling or dealing with the nitty-gritty, that we fail to see it. Train your eyes to see Jesus. After all, you can’t give what you don’t have.
The Little Way
St. Therese’s “little way” was not new because of the idea of sanctifying every moment but because of her conviction that, just by sanctifying every moment, she could be a saint. Just by being the best you, by striving to love Him in your own way, in the circumstances and with the people that He surrounded you with, you can bring God to the world. Be assured, it will not be without effect! Even the quietest holiness is earth-shattering. So be who you are, with joy and gusto!
God is not asking me to fix the whole world. That is far too big a task. But I can, and you can, restore your portion of the world to order, beauty, and holiness.
How do you sanctify the small in your life?
Jaime Gorman lives on a small farm in Virginia with her husband and children. She is seeking to set her lands in order after their intense summer, and credits her daughter’s continued healing to the intercession of St. Rita and Sarah Harkins, among many others.