“God never put anyone in a place too small to grow in.”
~ Henrietta C. Mears
About four years ago, my husband and I were hired to job-share a full-time position as Directors of Family Discipleship at a church in my hometown. We each worked twenty hours, and I did some freelance writing on the side. For the first time in my 5 years as a mother, I felt like I had found a balance that worked for me between working outside the home and being home with my kids. About a year into this new way of life, my husband began to pursue ordination, and I found out I was pregnant with our fourth child. My husband’s transition to full-time pastoral work at our church coincided with the birth of our daughter and the restructuring of my schedule to very part-time work at the church, and no margin for freelance writing. I struggled for months. Good things had been happening at our church, I was getting more writing opportunities, and it was energizing to be a part of everything. I was confused by what felt like an abrupt narrowing of a world that had seemed to be opening up before me.
As my husband began to expand his work wardrobe to accommodate a full work week, I stocked up on leggings. I sent my husband off to the best staff meetings I had ever been a part of, then turned around and drove the carpool. While he had the luxury of scheduling his work in 5 days each week, I would get as much as I could done in one day and then fit things in after bedtime each night. I loved being with our girls, but I also felt a deep sense of loss. I felt like the Lord had put me in a small place, and I didn’t see any room for growth. My prayer journals at this time are marked by direct honesty with the Lord about my confusion, sadness, and frustration.
After several months of these prayers, I read the story of Jesus in the temple as a boy in Luke 2. The phrase “the boy Jesus” strikes me every time I read it. Not the “Savior Jesus,” not the “All-Powerful Jesus,” not the “Messiah Jesus.” Though he was all these things and more, Luke calls him here “the boy Jesus.” As I reflected on this phrase, I was filled with awe that the Savior of the world would become a twelve-year-old boy. As I wondered what it was like for Jesus to return home with Mary & Joseph and to be “submissive to them,” I prayed that the Holy Spirit would birth this kind of submission to Christ in my life. As I contemplated the incarnation, the mystery that Jesus became limited and entered the small places, I realized that he understands what it is to hold a calling close in obscurity and wait. And then my eyes were drawn to the end of the passage, where it says that during this time, Jesus grew, not just physically, but also spiritually, and in favor with God. Friends, if Jesus grew in the small places, there is room enough there for all of us to grow. In my own story, the small place has borne fruit I couldn’t have dreamed of as I furiously scribbled prayers two and a half years ago.
In this small place, I have grown to know the deep and abiding love of Jesus, not connected to productivity or performance, but given freely by his grace over and over and over again. I have learned that there is no place too small for his love, no life too hidden for him to find, no one so obscure as to escape his notice. I have experienced that, while Jesus delights in our growth, the fruit of our careers, and the work we do at home, it is us that he loves. And there is no place too small for that love to bear fruit in our lives.
Read Luke 2:41-52 and try to imagine the story as you read it. What stands out to you? What do you wonder about this passage? What would you like to say to Jesus?
What places in your life feel too small or narrow for growth to you? Can you be honest with Jesus about these places? Can you ask the Holy Spirit to bear fruit in your life in these narrow places?
God who sees all hidden things, let me catch your gaze today, in my small and hidden moments. Jesus, remind me of your willingness to be made small for the sake of your love and cause that same willingness to grow within me. Holy Spirit, open my eyes to see you in the small and hidden things.
Just As I Am by Andrew Peterson
Lindsey Goetz serves as Children’s Discipleship Coordinator at First Presbyterian Church in Aurora IL. She loves writing, learning about children’s spiritual formation, and spending time with her husband and four girls. She does not love green beans, doing dishes, or going to bed early. You can follow her on Twitter @lins_goetz.