Thursday, February 25, 2010

Big Little

I came home from ten days of being a world away to three children I had been aching to snuggle and play with, a husband I had missed dearly, two papers to write, and plenty of reading to do.

But more that that... I have felt a little paralyzed.
Overwhelmed and paralyzed.
I am acutely aware of the power and meaning of our words. I am so sensitive and long to say only what I truly mean, what I truly believe- in the face of life's complexities- at times that leaves me with very little I feel comfortable saying with any level of authority. There is so much I really just don't understand. There are so many contradictions and so much information- where are we to begin when trying to discern what is really important in our lives- and in the world.

The kids have a book called 'Big Little".

ladies are big..... ladybugs are little
boats are big..... rubber duckies are little
heads are big.... toes are little
lakes are big.... mud puddles are little
trucks are big.... tricycles are little

I love this book. The pictures are fun, silly and colorful. Honestly, I haven't read it in years- but I can't get it out of my head.

In life- what is 'big' and what is 'little'?

Spending ten days thinking about politics, economics and religion left me feeling very little.
Hearing big ideas and high hopes of social change and human rights and seeing historical sights and buildings and mountains made life feel very little.

On my trip, the people we met, my fellow travelers, sitting on a rock in a cathedral at the mount of olives, listening to guitar and singing with friends- by the warmth of a fire with a kitty curled up on my lap, a little boy with no shoes pulling his donkey in the desert, praying in a little chapel at the church of fishes and loaves. Hearing peoples stories. Seeing the look in their eyes as they tell stories of brokenness, torture and pain, and the sparkle of hope as they talk of their families, their dreams. Food. Hummus. Falafel. Chocolate. More chocolate..... all of these things made life feel very big. Full. Real.

I think sometimes what seems big is actually little, and what seems little is actually big.
I have to remind myself of this in the moments when I get trapped in wondering what can 'I' possibly do. I am so little. The world, the issues, the pain, corruption and yuck all feel so darn big.

I guess this is when I return to what seems little. Relationships. Laughter. A glass of wine. The feel of my dog sitting by my feet. Kneeling down to listen to a child with a tear in their eyes. Listening. Stepping out and being vulnerable.

A big life is really just a bunch of the little stuff piled up until it overtakes the pain, corruption and yuck in the world.

How can I be fully present to the little?


My paralysis these past weeks has been a fear of saying the wrong thing. Fear of not fully honoring the value and depth of each story. In this paralysis I am reminded of a story Rob Bell uses in his latest book 'Drops Like Stars'.

He tells a story of an art teacher who divides his class into two groups and tells one they will be graded on the quantity of their work and the other will be graded on the quality. "They conclude that while the quantity group was busy churning out piles of work, the quality group sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay."

I get so stuck in fear of imperfection.


The twelve year old son of my friend Greg said when asked what he wants to be when he grows up... "I just want to go and see and be and do"

That is my all time favorite response to that question.


Let go of the fear of imperfection.
Go and see and be and do.
All of the little things-- and the big things too.

picture by Becca Hardin-Nieri