The Great Small

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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Amber Haines’ desire changes as she walks with Jesus, closer to his suffering and mercy. Preferential Treatment for personal gain leads to a kind of spiritual poverty she’ll gladly give up to reach instead toward the small patch of dirt in her garden.

“I stand in rows anonymous.” Jorie Graham’s poetry jumps into my mind as I dance between lines of mulch. There’s the left lean to the ground with two gloved hands scooping, the black wood gathered up, and then the swing right for the drop in the rich line between planting rows.

I’m becoming a vegetable gardener and a flower gardener. I pat the ground around my seeds, like I did my babies’ bottoms when I rocked them. These are like promises to me, future givers in tiniest form: the basil seeds before the joy of pesto and the helpless wrap of fingers in my hair as I nurse.

Content with Little

I’m learning to be content with little, and yet it’s the most I’ve ever had. I believe if Arkansas keeps its spring rain and if water can still come through the spigot, we’ll grow enough food to feed all our neighbors. I’m falling in love with the great small.

Our tiniest boy runs the balance beam of the crossties that line our planting. Ian, as usual, is high in the flimsy part of a maple tree. His flip-flop dangles from one big toe. My two older boys help shovel mulch, pull weeds, and squish the caterpillars before they get to the stalks.

These are the low, free things: the dirty yard boys; the puddles; the purple clover; and the simple pucker of green on the dry brown branch before the bloom. We can have little and have it all, if we have eyes to see. I learned this in poor places—the peace next to my son’s hospital bed and the hope in Port-au-Prince churches surrounded in rubble. I saw it so clearly that I began looking for the kingdom in the places that seem impossible, the near invisible places, as if seeing the unseen were the only sane option.

The Way We Treat our Christ

We sit the poor up front in honored places because we want to see the unseen. It is the reason we are told our treatment of the least of these is how we treat our Christ. The benefits of following Jesus' advice about how to treat the least of these are in the fruit, the fullness of life in the Spirit.

I have friends with grand stages who could offer me reach across many borders to many thousands of people, but that’s not my goal. My desire changes as I walk with Jesus, closer to his suffering and mercy. He is better. The reach toward this small patch of dirt has become my want. The reach of my hand in the passing of peace with my tiny church is the richest thing I have. The reward is always in the fruit and in the hope of fruit.

What happens when we keep our circles of promotion among those with big titles and platforms and give preference only to those who can do the same for us? We may gain the whole world, but what’s the whole world when it's empty of kingdom love and kindness? What’s the world if we’re living in it blind to who we really are?

Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? (James 2:5)

Love the Least

A dear friend right now watches her son suffer after a terrible skiing accident, and she sees it, too; this deep-to-the-broken-bone association with the poor. I watched a video of hundreds of people walking past a freezing homeless boy in the street. After a few hours, it was a homeless man who gave the boy his coat. This is what happens after you experience your own weakness. You begin to see the pain or the small, and you see yourself. When you see the poor, you begin to see Jesus. It’s not a magical self-willing that gives you eyes to see—it’s only an honesty about who we all are.

Loving the least isn’t a begrudging rule—it’s the path of abundant life.

The greatest platform I have right now is my yard, my anonymous song among the birds, and my contentment with my husband and my unknown boys. It’s not always like this, but when I am content with little, I learn mysteries. I learn a secret. There is no distinction among men. In Christ, there is no partiality. We are the poor, and so we associate with the poor. We associate with kingdom inheritors.

May you find your smallest platform and call that your greatest position. Let us live near to weakness so we can whisper kingdom come among the broken, kingdom come among those who have nothing but fruit to give.