The Bigger Picture
March 15th, 2019 by Shannon
Posted in Uncategorized|
Wow – my time at Kwai River Christian Hospital flew by. The last week was filled with times of both quiet and intensity. There was a two year old struggling to breathe that required intubation and a heartbreaking infant with scald burns. I saw measles for the first time and treated a boy with Dengue fever – excited to find a perfect textbook case of a positive tourniquet test. (When a tourniquet or blood pressure cuff causes bursting of capillaries made fragile by the dengue virus) The head physician/surgeon was gone during my visit giving me extra opportunity to help out but that also meant I missed out some of the key experiences I had hoped for. And to be totally honest this brought moments of disappointment. I enjoyed every bit of my time at KRCH but I did have to ask God a couple times why not busier patient loads while I was there or why not better timing to have surgeries and deliveries to participate in? Couldn’t the experience have been bigger, better, more fruitful?
See when you are like me – always looking to the next big thing – the problem is that you are well, always looking to the next big thing. And that can make the thing now seem small or at the least not quite big enough. See 300 people in a mission clinic and you think, “I know we can reach way more.” Have an awesome time snowmobiling in the Himalayas and go “wait what’s that crazy looking trail over there?!” I laughed at my niece when after finishing the Tough Mudder, a 10 mile race with over 20 military style obstacles, her response was that it wasn’t really as hard or as cool as the videos made it seem. But often I’m just like her. I finish the task and feel that just wasn’t extreme enough, effective enough, well done enough, meaningful enough, big enough.
You may or may not identify with this struggle, but either way the truth is we’re all searching for our lives to be meaningful and purposeful, trying to find that place of satisfaction and accomplishment. We run through the endless necessary tasks of the day that pile up and wonder at the end if it all adds up to anything. We want our lives to account for something big enough to be worthwhile but are endlessly caught in the smallness of daily life. Dreams for something more are often pushed to the back, or maybe almost forgotten, and sometime we wonder if we’re going where we want to be. And if we’re really honest sometimes we even use this as an excuse. This task, or act of obedience, is small we tell ourselves, so does it really matter if we don’t carry it though?
But what if in the middle of all of that smallness, God is writing a bigger story? What if behind the scenes God is busy putting together all of those little pieces into something we can’t even imagine and we get confused about which things are actually the big ones? This week I’ve been reading “Where the River Runs: How a forgotten people renewed my hope in the gospel” by Kelly Minter. She tells the story of how God changed the course of her life by taking her to serve the people of the Amazon in Brazil. Kelly thought the big thing was the new deal she had signed with a record label, but the video that played at the end of the concert about a ministry called Ray of Hope she almost ignored. The seemingly so minor thing as a short video clip was the thing that God was actually using to change the course of her life. If there’s anything God has been teaching me lately it’s that He’s always writing a bigger story. Even when the future doesn’t look like what we planned, He’s always taking us somewhere even better than we hoped.
Let me take you back for a minute to the partitioning of the Pakistan and Indian border in 1947. Unimaginable violence is unfolding as Muslims and Hindus are separated to their respective countries and people of the “wrong” religion are flooding over the border to get where they are told they belong. In the midst of all the turmoil, a missionary hands a Sikh man a copy of the gospel of Luke as he takes his family across the border from Pakistan into India. This Sikh man doesn’t know how to read and sticks it in his turban and seemingly the story ends there. But fast forward several years, his son Nasir Masih learns to read and picks up that gospel of Luke and accepts Christ. He grows up and starts the first Baptist Church in north India which over the years blossoms into a ministry of several hundred churches, numerous church plants, and a Christian school with over 1,000 students. In the mid 1990s, a mission mentor of mine gets introduced to Nasir Masih leading to a partnership between my church and First Baptist Church Chandigarh India. In 2005, nine months after saying I would never go to India, I spend the entire summer in North India and come home saying that was amazing but I’m not sure I’ll go back again. (Oh how God must laugh at us!). Coincidentally, I spent that summer with three girls who had a friend back at seminary in the US named Paul Masih. The son of Nasir and the same guy who little did I know I would be partnering with in service to North India for years to come. Arrive at 2019 and I just finished my seventh trip to India through my church, working with that very Paul, who now leads this incredible ministry reaching thousands across India with the love of Christ. My life and the lives of thousands of others have been eternally effected because one man was handed a Bible.
I can hardly wrap my mind around it. I can only imagine the thousands of reasons that man could have come up with not to be there, not to hand out that gospel, or why it didn’t matter. Had others turned down his gift or even responded angrily? What about the threat of violence? How easily could he have said “I don’t have to give a copy to this man.” It was just one little thing. One simple act that grew into a ministry reaching thousands with the light of Jesus in one of the darkest places on earth and that is affecting my life still today – all because a man was obedient in 1947 to hand someone a copy of the gospel.
How many times do we feel discouraged at the smallness of the things we’ve done or argue that it doesn’t really mater if we do them. I don’t know how many times I’ve justified and reasoned my way out of obedience to the Lords leading because it was just a small thing. It could not really matter that much. Recently I put up in my house a wooden sign, inscribed with words “Do small things with great love.” More than just catchy saying for home decor, it was the motto of Mother Theresa. Now the world renown symbol of compassionate care for the poor of India, Mother Theresa never set out to be world famous or win a Nobel Peace Prize for her momentous acts of service. She simply saw neglected needy people in the streets of Calcutta and began to serve them. One act of kindness at a time, she fed a hungry man, bandaged a sick woman, loved the unwanted, comforted the dying. Small acts done with great love that grew to world impacting proportions. Our God sees every need, notices every falling sparrow, and even catches our very tears in a bottle. Our God is in the small things. But even better, He is weaving each tiny thread of our lives into an intricate and beautiful picture that ultimately tells the story of His enduring greatness. I don’t know about you but I want my life woven into that fabric.
So I am choosing to believe that the little pieces of my life are coming together into something much bigger, that the small things matter. I bet it wasn’t so small to the mother in India last month who received education and supplements for her sick malnourished child. Many of our team were obedient to the simple task of telling the story of Gods work in their lives. But it wasn’t small to the those who found Jesus for the first time and now have hope for all eternity. And I hope maybe it wasn’t so small to the women who overdosed when I prayed with her or mother whose baby was burned when I tried to comfort her and cared for her child. Whether it was learning how a small rural mission hospital works, or the enjoyment of taking care of a patient from triage, through their hospital stay, to discharge who knows what ways God is weaving my time at the hospital into His bigger story for my life. Perhaps I needed a reminder to slow down and spend more intentional time with Him, a reminder that true rest and refreshment comes from communion with the Lord (not binging on Netflix!). Or more likely it was something I don’t even understand yet. I’ve been awed these past two years to see pieces of the puzzle of my life starting to fit together in ways I hardly dreamed of through mission opportunities and opening doors with Samaritan’s Purse. I could not begin to see where it all was leading along the way, I just had to follow God one small step at a time. I recently read a piece from Elizabeth Elliot. Overwhelmed with the tasks of carrying on the ministry and home after her husband Jim was killed, she learned to focus on one thing at a time and simply do the next thing. And that’s how our walk with God must be. Just take the next step of obedience. When we can’t imagine where its all leading, He’s writing a story bigger and better than we hoped.
One man stuck a gospel of Luke in a turban in 1947 and has no idea that he’s still impacting the world and growing the Kingdom today. Do small things with great love. Or I might expand on it this way: Do small acts of obedience performed in God’s love with great trust. No it won’t make for catchy home decor that way. But it does remind of this, with God no act of obedience is small.
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”