Monday, 24 September 2012

on being small

the mossy woods in Caroline, AB.

Have you ever laid down on a soft piece of moss in the middle of the woods and starred up into the trees?  Or laid on a cool patch of grass and been mesmerized by an endless shimmering of stars? Have you ever laid in the sand near the ocean and listened to the rushing, roaring, symphony of waves crashing on the shore?

have you ever felt incredibly small?

What about the times in your life when you've laid flat out - but not by choice?  When you've been completely broken -- in heart or in body?  When life has left you battered, crushed and powerless in a world where we are valued for our strength, power and independence?

My soul has been longing to understand what an abundant, successful life looks like in God's economy, where the first will be last, where if I lose my life - I will find it, and where when I am weak - I am actually strong in Christ. 

And what about my dreams, my grand hopes for the future, my longing to really be somebody one day--all in the name of "accomplishing something special for God"?  How do those secret places of my heart fit with God's perfect plans for me?  Do they have any resemblance at all?

I read the words of F.B. Meyer (in Ann Voskamps one thousand gifts. p. 171) and they tip me right upside down:  

"I used to think that God's gifts were on shelves one above the other, and that the taller we grew in Christian character the easier we should reach them.  I find now that God's gifts are on shelves one beneath the other, and that it is not a question of growing taller but of stooping lower, and that we have to go down, always, down, to get His best gifts."

wildflowers in Kananaskis 

I am so incredibly small, but can I accept that as a good thing?

Nothing in the world tells me that smallness is good.  That, in fact, that it might actually be true greatness.   Nothing I read in magazines or watch on TV tells me that if I want to be great, I need to learn to be the servant of all.  No self-help book that I know of has ever spent a chapter on being meek, reminding me that it is the meek who will inherit the earth.

This idea of "smallness equals greatness" seems only to be a God-thing, completely foreign to the confines of popular thought today.  And really, can God be trusted when the culture I am woven into applauds strength, success, independence, empowerment, and getting ahead at almost any cost?  

God or culture?  What am I willing to risk, to live a life of love and humility?

I'd like to end by retelling (and abbreviating) a story I read in Peter Scazzero's book The Emotionally Healthy Church (p. 119): 

There once lived a water carrier in India who made the same trip every day from the stream to his master's house, using two large pots attached at either end of a large pole he carried across his neck.  The one pot was perfect and became very proud that it always delivered a full load of water at the master's house.  The other pot had a large crack in it and became very discouraged that it only ever arrived at the master's house half full.  Finally the cracked pot spoke to the water carrier at the stream one day and apologized shamefully for its brokenness and for only ever delivering half its original load.  The water carrier smiled at the cracked pot and pointed to the beautiful flowers that lined one side of the path back to the master's house saying: "I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we passed these spots, you watered them.  Now for two years I have been able to pick those beautiful flowers to decorate my master's table.  Without you being just the way you are, I would not have this beauty to grace his house."

What gifts of beauty have grown from your brokenness?  What new perspectives have resulted from your smallness?  Is being strong, independent, and powerful really all it's "cracked up" to be? (pardon the pun!)

If you wish,  you may leave your thoughts and reflections in the comment section below.

photos © Melody Armstong


  1. Ohhhh, so this is why people write and read blogs! Your words and images are reverberating in me and and my own soul is whispering words God has spoken to me in the past. One of my clearest memories of "understanding" God was when, as a teen, I climbed to the top of Mt. Yemneska(sp?) and, depleted from the climb, head hanging down, I saw the most miniscule wildflower growing at the side of the path. Something happened inside of me and the truth of God's personal dedication to art, beauty and fragility and the truth of God's grand side, represented by the rocky mountain, were forever united in my soul. Your opening lines, Melodious, and your image, immediately took me to that momentous moment when God wove those two truths together for me. Thank you for this journey back in time.

    I've also had the LORD speak to me twice about my own personal fragility and He again used flowers. The first time was during a breath holding spell/panic attack when I had stumbled outside to try to regain normal breathing patterns. God directed my gaze to a Dog Tree blossom. As I stared and started to breath again, God explained to me that this particular flower is famous for not having perfectly rounded petals, but rather a special “shriveled” petal that almost looks like it has been burnt. This uniqueness made it especially beautiful. Hmmm....The other time the LORD spoke to me about the beauty of fragility, I was taking a restorative bath after another breath holding spell/panic attack and the LORD had me focus on a bouquet of “Silver Dollar” dried flowers that my mum had worked away at for hours. She had purposely removed the protective shell that covered these rice paper thin leaves/flowers, because it was these uber fragile, veil-like dried leaves that she wanted. I've seen her spend hours and hours sitting and carefully removing the shell from either side of the almost transparent dried leaves. God clearly said that fragility is a special kind of beauty appreciated by many.

    Thank you for your words, your images, your heart. Thank you for your pursuit of truth and your courage. Thank you for the story of the weakened vessel that actually had a special ministry because of its brokenness. That story goes in my treasure box.

    I kiss your feet.

  2. I'm still trying to figure this out in my own life, thanks for posing some challenging questions. I love your blog & can't wait to share it with special people in my life.

  3. Thank you Celtic heart for your beautiful response. I love your stories and your gorgeous heart :) (forever, of course!) We will talk soon and I can't wait to catch up. Much love.

    and are a wonderful sounding board and I value your thoughts and feedback always. Thanks for being such a dear friend and terrific cheerleader. Thanks also for faithfully reading the words and thoughts of my heart.

  4. The words and the timing could not be more appropriate. Thank you for the beautiful reminder that the world's greatness is not God's version of greatness and significance. That we don't have to view our cracks as damage because God has a plan for them. Thank you for pouring your heart into this blog and for being open and relatable. Your vulnerability has surfaced some of my recurring demons that I work hard to ignore...thanks, I think! :) I'm looking forward to going on this journey with you and I appreciate the opportunity. Keep pouring, mama!

  5. Thank YOU, Mama. :) (now I know who you are!) Isn't it good to do this thing together? I am humbled by your comment and very grateful to share in this journey. xo


I invite your comments and thank you for journeying with me.