Mustard Seeds

Some new friends, the Hale’s, are moving into town soon. Heath and Kristen will be one of the families who will gather with us to form a new Christian community in our neighborhood. Because we desire that this community not only take care of one another but also this neighborhood that we share, we would love for them to move into our neighborhood. That task has been easier said than done. As they find houses for sale I’ve been helping them by telling them where they are in relation to our home. They have found some wonderful homes thus far, but often times they are expensive or in need of a lot of work. Some are affordable but they are quite a ways away. Then, in some cases, they have found affordable houses that are “move-in ready” less than a mile from our home. However, that mile includes crossing over stretches of Broadway that are completely inhospitable to pedestrians.

Talking with Heath and Kristen through this process has helped me to see, yet again, the importance of small acts of faithfulness.

Rather than composing a grand mission statement intended to motivate people to make an impact on the city of Knoxville, what if a small community of people committed to be faithful to one another? What if to make it more feasible for us to live life with the Hale’s we worked with the city to make Broadway more pedestrian friendly? What if this new community bought a home and began a housing cooperative that making monthly living expenses more affordable?

These kinds of acts arise out of inhabiting the same space with the same people and the subsequent desire to care for both. We don’t have to have some grand plan for the redemption of a place. We simply have to care for one other person and one place. It can be challenging in our world of celebrities and global awareness. How do we resist, in other words, (1) wondering how what I’m doing in my neighborhood is going to result in any significant impact (which might actually be a desire to be recognized for our work) and (2) feeling as though these simple acts are meaningless when compared to the work we could be doing to alleviate the famine, war and disease I am constantly aware are plaguing this world. (Our awareness of global issues is, of course, a very recent phenomenon. Awareness is not synonymous with action nor is it necessarily a call to action.)

T.S. Eliot

The irony is, the more I fret over how I’m going to “make my mark” on the world, the less I actually do. T.S. Eliot wrote for three hours every day. Who knows how many thousands upon thousands of pages he actually wrote. Instead, we are aware of what probably amounts to a very small amount of T.S. Eliot’s writing. If T.S. Eliot fretted over how he was going to write “The Wasteland” or “Four Quartets” it is likely that you and I would never have had the pleasure of reading them. Instead, it was out of Eliot’s commitment to write a little everyday that these (what we know only in retrospect to be) great works emerged.

I aspire to be small not great. How amazingly counterintuitive. I want to be faithful to the people and place God has given me. (How do I know who those people are and what that place is? I look around me.) I want to assume that we are better together and do the work necessary to remove the obstacles to that becoming a reality. I think this is, in part, what Jesus was talking about when he said, “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move hence to yonder place,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”

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