In January three years ago, I wrote a post called How to Live Big. You can read the whole thing, but here’s a blurb:
God writes big stories, stories that seem impossible. And they are, if you think about it. He seems to take great interest in impossible stories, and I think they’re interesting, too. But I rarely raise my hand to live them.
I write small stories. Everyday, I write stories for my life that include comfort and fun and entertainment. I live inside my little story like coloring a sunshine yellow – I stay in the lines and keep to the plan. Suns are supposed to be yellow, right? I am a rule-follower.
I wrote those words before my first book came out, 25 days after that email from Annie when she declared 2011 the year of making art. It was a time when I was wrestling with my own fear, a time when I was stepping out of my own small stories. Looking back on that time now, I would replace the word small with the word scared.
In those days, I used those words interchangeably. Not so anymore.
It’s true, God writes big stories. But we can only see that from here looking back. His big stories started with smallness: five loaves, two fish, a foot washing, a mustard seed, a fisherman, a shepherd boy, a baby.
But I felt restless in those days, wanting to write words that mattered, wanting to parent in a way that meant something, wanting to have a voice, wanting my life to count for something beyond myself. If I’m honest, I also wanted to be successful, the definition of success changing for me depending on what success looked like for my peers. I still struggle with the definition of success, actually.
Last year when we were brainstorming titles for my third book, one of the phrases I tossed into the pile was the title of that post, How to Live Big. You should know that it wasn’t a serious contender, but in titling discussions, anything goes and you can’t be afraid of bad ideas.
When I said it, I was sitting in my parked car in my driveway on the phone with Esther, my agent. We talked for an hour, trying to find just the right phrase. When I said this one out loud, her response was this: “Meh. Do people really want to live big?”
I had to think about that for a while. In fact, I’ve thought about it now for a long while.
I don’t know if I 100 percent disagree with that post I wrote, but if I were to re-write it, I would word it differently. A lot differently.
Now, my restlessness feels different. I am careful not to color the word small in negative shades, as if it were something to run from or escape.
It almost seems like an oxymoron, but these days I’m feeling restless for smallness – not out of fear of man but because of my union with Christ.
I want to start small because I’m human and dependent, not in hopes that my small will grow into something bigger. Maybe starting small will remind me that is what I am – and Jesus will give me the grace to stay there – even when it hurts and even when it’s hard.
I’m restless to stay small in His presence, not because I’m scared, but because I’m His.
I want this to be a relief rather than a frustration.
I’m restless to accept the beauty of smallness, hiddenness, and the secret work of Christ in the deepest part of who I am.
I’m restless to let Him come out of me in any way He wants, no matter how big or how small that may seem to me – whether that be in one big way or in a million little ways.
I’m restless for believers to see, as my dad often says, beyond what is to what could be. And this doesn’t mean I am to dream big and amazing things for God. Rather, it means I am to believe in a big and amazing God, period. I can trust Him to be Himself even as I dare to be myself.
And maybe as I do that, I’ll realize that starting small isn’t a means to a bigger end, rather I start small because it’s what I am.
And this is good and right and holy.
My friend Jennie Allen writes in her new book Restless: Because You Were Made for More, “We are called to dream but we’re afraid to. But because we are called, when we don’t act on it we become restless—restless to find purpose, to make a difference in the world, to matter.”
She urges believers to pay attention to what causes our restlessness, as this could be the very doorway through which the Spirit is urging us to walk.
During the month of January, we’re talking about some of these same concepts, what I like to call making art with our lives – this week specifically, what it means to make art in little ways. Maybe one little way you could make art today is to consider this question: Can you name the restlessness within you? What is pulling, tugging, and causing a bit of discomfort in your soul?
If you have an answer and would like to receive a copy of this new release, simply leave a comment telling us of your restlessness and from those we’ll pick five of you and share the winners on Saturday, January 11.