Small Steps to Greatness
I recently heard a talk by coach and artist Jamie Treadwell, a man who radically lives his life on mission for Jesus. The talk was titled, "How do we draw greatness out of each other?" He spoke about the importance of not selling ourselves short- that we are called to do great things with the life we have been given and that we need other people in our lives to help us move in this direction.
Jamie's words hit on a few things that have been brewing in the back of my mind for some time now:
What does it actually mean to live a life of greatness? I want to be a radical disciple and to be on the front lines of the battlefield fighting for truth, beauty and goodness. But what does that actually look like day-to-day?
When I think about women who I look up to as being "radical", I think of Mary the mother of Jesus who said 'yes' to a life of scandalous judgement from her neighbors and torturous pain while watching her son undergo the most treacherous and unjust death. I think of Mother Theresa who lived a life of complete poverty and filth while maintaining a heart of unending joy and love- a joy and love which have continued to be spread throughout the world for generations. I think of Ruth who gave up everything comfortable in her life to follow her deceased husband's mother, Naomi, to live a life with the Lord. I think of my older sister Becky, who had twin boys two years ago, underwent an extreme life adjustment that I'm sure only mothers can fully comprehend and who just recently brought a third baby boy into this world. She said 'yes' to God who was asking her to accept sleepless nights, interrupted dinners, no alone time and stained dresses from diaper explosions- all in order to take on the responsibility of raising up three of His sons to become warriors for His eternal kingdom.
In considering the lives of these women, I have found several common themes:
- They gave up the good and comfortable for the sake of the great.
- They are not alone. Mary's life supporter and partner was Joseph- and God made sure she had him beside her before giving her the responsibility of raising up the Son of God. Mother Theresa made a commitment to live her life surrounded by other women to pray and be on mission with. Ruth chose to live her life with the guidance and support of Naomi. Becky has a wonderful husband to support and help her raise up their boys to become men of God.
- Their lives are directed by the big vision they have for life. We are able to see the greatness of their lives when we look at the big picture, the broad scope of the work they have been given. It's harder to see the greatness in the immediate, day-to-day routines of their lives.
For me, it's much easier to desire a life of greatness than to actually live one. I hear an inspirational talk like Jamie's and my heart burns to flight for my Lord's kingdom and change this crooked and perverse world. But how do I do that in the next 24 hours? I think the answer lies in the lives of these women.
In their daily routines they have taken baby steps, steps that sometimes seem mundane, to train and equip themselves to say a more radical 'yes' when the time comes.
I'm sure Mother Theresa, in explaining a day in her life, would describe it as a fairly average day. Just one of thousands she lived picking diseased people off the streets so that they could die in a clean home, with love and dignity. I'm sure moms don't see anything radical being done while putting up with the tantrums and dirty diapers. Those are just the small tasks they choose, over and over again, to partake in- small tasks which add up to a great, radical, inspirational life.
So how do we do this? I've put together a list of small steps that we, as women and as sisters, can take today to begin to train our life for greatness. (Side note- This list is not in any order of importance and is not close to being perfect, but it's a start!)
- Fast. Fasting trains our bodies to not give in to instant gratifications. Food isn't evil, but it shouldn't control us. It's easier to be in control of our spiritual lives once we are in control of our physical lives.
- Feast. Know when to enjoy the fruits of the earth! We can best learn how to feast well when we know how to fast well, the Lord gives us good things on this earth so we may 'live an abundant life'. We are meant to enjoy the gifts God gives us!
- Daily Prayer. It is important to be spiritually disciplined and to make our relationship with the Lord a priority. If you stop talking to your best friend, if you stop listening to them and sharing what's going on in your life, wouldn't you feel distanced from them? How is our relationship with the Lord any different?
- Do little things that are outside of your comfort zone. Give a talk, perform something in front of others etc. The Lord often calls us to be uncomfortable for the sake of His kingdom!
- Allow others to do things outside of their comfort zone, even if they are not perfect at it. Allowing a 3 year old to pour their own milk, asking an older high school student to give a talk or lead worship at a retreat, or allowing an 8 year old to hold the fishing pole himself. How do we expect to help others mature and develop skills and abilities if we do everything for them?
- Intentionally love others. Do things you don't want to for the sake of love- do someone else's chores, make a meal for someone who is sick, spend time serving the poor and needy, take a prayer walk and talk to strangers about Jesus.
- Be a good steward of what the Lord has given you on a daily basis. Be a good steward of your time, talent and treasure. Care for you body- eat well and exercise!
- Try to find joy and contentment in every situation the Lord puts you in. "Do all things without grumbling or complaining" Philippians 2:14.
- Don't always take the easy way out. Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator, color with your kids instead of watching TV, grab coffee with that not-so-friendly co worker instead of your best friend.
- Make community a priority. Surround yourself with people who will build you up in holiness. Spend time laughing with them and serving with them, even if that means spending a Friday night doing an activity you'd rather not do.
These small steps are harder for me to say yes to than some of the bigger, more obvious ones. But now that I think about it...why would the Lord ask me to do the crazy, radical, hard tasks that 'look great' in life if I'm not able to do these smaller tasks? I need to be able to say 'yes!' to the Lord now, in the smaller things, in order to be prepared to say 'yes!' when I'm asked to do the big tasks!
Lord, help me to be disciplined enough to live my daily life according to Your will, so that I can become a trained servant and take my part in your great plan for the salvation of the world.
Cindy Lykins grew up in a small farm town in West Michigan with 7 older siblings. She attended Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she studied Photography, Religion and Philosophy. She became involved with University Christian Outreach while studying at GVSU and is now starting her 3rd year on staff for the organization. She has a passion for true femininity and wants to live her life helping to build up a strong Christian culture. Some of her interests include- the Lord, coffee, backpacking, cinnamon, music, dancing, photography, thunderstorms, autumn leaves, sweaters, C.S. Lewis, road trip adventures, wildflowers, sitting by a toasty fireplace during a snowstorm, dark chocolate, the beach, horseback riding, anything outdoors and her friends and family who continuously provide her with love, wisdom and support.