Engulfed in a cloud of various perfumes and after-shaves, I seated myself as comfortably as a thin, velvet pew cushion would allow and prepared for Pastor Bob’s weekly words of wisdom. Of course morning announcements would come first, so I allowed my mind to wander a bit. My thoughts danced between what I could prepare for lunch and all of the different things I could do to become a better disciple of Jesus Christ. Did I want turkey on white? Was I doing enough for my church?
Somewhere in my clouded head I heard a very familiar sound. A sound that will take you right back to childhood days spent lying on the floor, propped up on elbows, while you transformed black outlined pictures into masterpieces. Crayon strokes on paper. My daughter was busy meticulously filling in odd-shaped circles that covered the color-free body of a chubby, barking puppy. I watched as she moved a sharp, brown crayon around the paper, careful not to stumble outside of any lines.
For a moment, I was proud to watch her working so hard on her current project. How steady her eyes held on that piece of paper. Sadly, though, my pride began to shrink when the time had come to add color to a white, cloudless sky. Her smooth, careful strokes became hurried scribbles, hungry for every speck of white. I stared at the messy, blue splotches surrounding the puppy, wondering where all of that patient effort had gone so suddenly. Then, a sobering thought occurred to me… Isn’t that exactly how I treat life every day?
How many times do I begin a crusade, eager to make a difference with my own two hands, only to watch my efforts fade at the first sight of the larger picture? I’m happy enough giving a dollar or two to a homeless man, squatting on the side of the highway, until the nightly news airs a piece on the issue of homelessness. When I see just how big the problem really is I’m quick to throw up my hands in frustration.
“Why bother?” I ask myself. “What can I do?”
Abused children, animals and women… Hurricane victims… Empty food pantries… It’s easy to become discouraged and unmotivated. Just look at what we’re up against!
But, consider the spots on my daughter’s unfinished puppy and the dedication given to the smaller parts of the picture. What if all I had to worry about were those big, blue eyes staring up at me? What if trips to the pick-your-own strawberry patch, picnics on the beach and patient homework supervision were all I needed to concentrate on?
God finds ways to use everyone. My little girl is oblivious to the fact that her simple crayon strokes awoke a thirst for a deeper purpose within me. Perhaps, God has already set my project before me. How much different would the world look if, instead of filling our-to do lists, we focused on the opportunities right under our noses.
I have a full-time job and I need to keep it. Otherwise, food and shelter may become an issue. But, maybe I could shave off a couple of hours during the week, so I can pick her up from school for some one on one time. We don’t really need flashy cars, plasma TV’s or designer jeans. Why should I work longer than I really need to, when a crucial part of my life needs that time even more?
Yard work needs to get done. Sunday school needs to be taught. Animals need to be saved and children need to be fed. Each cause is legitimate. Each cause requires immediate attention. But, how many causes have been laid at our feet. How many are we stepping over right now, in our efforts to complete the picture? How many are we simply running our fingers through, so we can hurry on to the next?
Sitting beside that beautiful, little girl this past Sunday has shortened my perspective. I know that contradicts so much of what we’re taught but, in this case, it’s a much needed change. The bigger picture is probably best left in God’s hands. But, the smaller pieces are waiting to be filled in. Smooth and careful strokes are needed for each one.
Life is lived one second at a time. Each step carries us further on our journey. Save the animal you see in need. Offer support to the single mother who lives next door. Spend time with the ones you love and show them his infinite love lives in your heart. You will never know how many lives will be touched by your seemingly simple acts of faith.