I shift my 5ft 10in body a bit to the left to make room to cross my right leg over without pressing into the seat in front of me. I’m currently on a flight back to Texas from my hometown in Maryland and we’re under a tornado watch and the engine won’t start. With a mechanic on the way to diagnose the problem, I’ve taken a few minutes to stretch in more ways than one.
I’ve spent ten years tailoring my words to a thorough Instagram caption limit. Short(er) and to the point. When I became a mother, I had a paralyzing fear that if I were to pass away my children wouldn’t know anything about me. I thought about journaling, but I wanted to share the days with anyone who could affirm my heart if a child of mine were to ask if they had known me. I prayed, in return, any reader would be blessed by words I had written in the humbling days of early motherhood.
However, stepping away from social media platforms this past summer for a break, incidentally caused me to lose a taste for it and to embrace the now older and eidetic minds of my little ones who are approaching their early teen years. I have a few articles on this experience queued up, but ultimately the question that haunted me these short summer days was, “What do you want the next five years to look like?” For myself, my loved ones, strangers. How many eyes have I yet to meet while here? How many left will I meet? What would it look like to physically and intentionally look forward and up for most of the day? Just the other day my daughter made a comment about seeing me stand on the tips of my toes to reach for something. She said she doesn't see me do that very often. What else does she see?
These are the things I think about.
Moving from the algorithmic deity I’m in a bit of a conundrum as I now find it exhausting to wrap my mind around producing an article or post that exhibits an academically conditioned length. I am out of practice as one would say. Nevertheless, in all of it and through all of it, it’s led me back here to my hometown where I’ve contemplated and dwelt on the goodness of a small beginning that has led me to a small life.
Small, as it’s defined, is less than normal or usual. Further down the page we find humble, lowly, modest, and simple. Let’s start with what is normal and usual for western culture of 2023. Today, the average (the norm) length of a marriage is eight years (Forbes). On average, 20% of Americans attend church every week (ChurchTrac). The average American spends 7 hours looking at a screen each day (Cross River Therapy). An average mobile phone user has 80 apps installed (Data Prot). The average number of social media accounts a person has is 7.1 (Demand Sage). The median employee tenure in the US is 4.3 years for men and 3.8 years for women (Zippia). And finally, more than half of Americans take at least one prescription medication daily, with the average person actually taking four medications (Letra Urbana).
Let me address a few things here before I continue. Marriage is hard. Ministry is messy (fallen people helping fallen people). Technology is great. Career opportunities are wonderful, and medication is a common grace.
The pursuit of happiness may readily stand by any one of these statistics but it wasn’t satisfaction that brought these standards to the forefront. It was the reality of our depravity; that we are selfish by nature, consuming, and want for ourselves anything but smallness.
In January 2019 I wrote to my children,
Growing up as a musician the verse, “Do not despise the days of small beginnings,” in Zechariah 4:10 was fed frequently in our young troupe and circles. We were on our way to becoming stars... for Jesus of course! It didn't matter the size of the crowd! These were our small beginnings and things were going to change. But the words of Zechariah weren't meant to fuel our dreams. Contextually, it was encouragement given to Zerubbabel and the people involved in the temple rebuilding project not to lose heart or be discouraged by the challenges they faced. The First Temple, also known as Solomon's Temple, was renowned for its grandeur and magnificence. The Second Temple, by comparison, was generally considered to be less grand in scale. This was due in part to the limited resources and challenges faced during its construction. But the work they were doing, even if it seemed small, was significant in the eyes of God.
It was significant.
"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Can we say that about the lives we lead? A first go at it may not look like her go at it, our second go may not look like the first, but what is the purpose behind our actions, thoughts, and words? Small to those around us, possibly, but is it significant in the eyes of God? Do we despise what we've been given? Can we be content with what He says is significant? What fruit would it bear if we were to lead small lives in pursuit of His satisfaction? Virtue, detachment from materialism, generosity and service, equanimity. All things presumably quantifiably absent from the statistics stated above. What would happen to a person, community, let alone culture if we became content in a small beginning, middle, and end?
Marriage may still be difficult, ministry still messy. An overabundance of technology still present, career opportunities available or not, and medication necessary. Our depravity will remain a reality but what may change is instead of despising the days of small beginnings and the life it may lead to— we find profound significance in them.
Brittany M. White
Having had the pleasure these amazing years of turning people, experiences, feelings, and God's love into song -- I've grown quite fond of words. When not physically expressing them to those I love, you'll find them here.