Saturday, October 11, 2008

Little Things

I have been embarrassed (and have necessarily provided quick correction) when some of you have commended me for "doing great things". I am not doing great things. I am doing very little things, sometimes very menial things, but with great confidence that it is what I am to be doing.

I was greatly impacted (perhaps forever changed) some years ago when I first heard "the Starfish Story" in a sermon delivered by Byron MacDonald. For those of you who are not familiar with it, it goes something like this:
One day a man was walking along the beach after a very strong storm when he noticed a young boy picking something up and throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”
The young boy replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf was huge and the tide is now going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”
“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and thousands of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”
The boy listened politely, but without even pausing he bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Smiling, he then said…”I made a difference for that one.”

I was so moved and personally convicted by this illustration that, as often I tried, I could never re-tell it without being betrayed by my emotions. It resonated deeply with me, and in time I just had to throw a starfish back in the water. Pretty simple. And then another, which was even more simple.

It is all pretty simple,... each act really quite unremarkable in the re-telling. But as each of us develop a habit of these simple acts, we make an enormous difference in the world. We transform individual lives (most unavoidably, our own), we strengthen families, and we ultimately change entire communities. These are not vain "works" apart from God, but rather these are the very works for which God created us. (Ephesians 2:10)

Edmund Burke described differently the challenge that so convicts and motivates me: "Nobody made a greater mistake than they who did nothing because they thought they could do only a little."