How A Remarkable Life Equals a Thousand Unremarkable Steps
As believers, we want our lives to count.
We long to do great things for the kingdom of God.
However, greatness is rarely achieved by doing great things, but instead by doing good things repetitively.
The tragedy is that, while waiting for great opportunities to come along, we miss out on a parade of good opportunities that march steadily by. Goodness is largely ignored because it seems too common, too mundane, too everyday.
Consider the way this plays out in a small community.
A town mourns the death of three teenagers killed in a car accident.
Tragedy struck with screeching tires and twisting metal. The horrific news sweeps through the high school with the devastating shock of a tsunami. Bouquets and handwritten notes form a spontaneous memorial at the intersection where the cars collided. Tragedy strikes.
Conversely, goodness rarely “strikes.” It arrives on the stage with little drama.
In the same community that experienced the awful accident, a devoted coach painstakingly builds a cross-country program for middle school girls. For a dozen seasons, she forges diligence, teamwork, and confidence. While some of these girls are the products of affirming, encouraging homes, others will remember their seventh-grade cross-country coach as “the first person who believed in me.”
Twenty years pass.
Ask a thirty-three-year-old woman from the community what influences impacted her while she was growing up. Reflecting for a moment, she answers, “The Accident” and “The Coach.”
But these arrived at different speeds and in radically different ways.
Tragedy strikes. Goodness grows slowly.
As I reflect on my own life, I recognize the formative impact of both jarring tragedy and steady love.
I awakened one November morning in my seventh-grade year to learn that my mom had been killed in an automobile accident during the night. The sudden loss of my mom is the singularly most defining event in my early life, and yet, my life was also profoundly shaped by my mother’s steady presence and deep affection. I remember her laughter, her gracious eyes, her presence when I raced home from the bus stop and barged into the house.
From my earlier moments, I believed that I was securely loved.
The snail’s pace at which goodness travels will require extreme devotion to the journey.
Goodness demands staying power. The question is whether we will summon the requisite endurance for a slow, faithful, consistent outpouring of love.
I believe this is why the apostle Paul urged an early community of Jesus’ followers:
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.(Galatians 6:9)
Paul addresses the issue of weariness because a life of goodness can be tedious and redundant.
It involves bringing ourselves again and again, often to the same tasks and often to the same people. The repetition takes something out of us. It drains our energy. Paul was writing here of a kind of weariness that leads to calling it quits.
Awaken one morning and breathe the prayer, “Lord, today I offer my life to You.”
The next morning, do it again. And again. And again. Eventually, is there not a real temptation of awakening one day and muttering, “This is getting really old, I just don’t feel like doing this anymore”?
On such a morning, it is imperative to remember the law of the farm.
We will reap a harvest, if we do not give up.
How I wish Paul had selected a different metaphor. Perhaps something with a little more speed, quicker results. But, no, Paul went with farming. Because you can’t rush a harvest. You plow, you plant, and you wait.
I believe the farming image can radically adjust our expectations. Sometimes a life of positive impact is about as interesting as watching a garden grow.
Goodness grows slowly.
It arrives through the repeated kindness of the diligent faithful.
It arrives quietly, traveling the slow path of devoted love.
Dream Big but Think Small.
Day by day, one loving act of kindness after another, you have an opportunity to grow a life of greatness.
So keep showing up. Keep planting.
Do not grow weary in doing good. The harvest awaits you.