January 31, 2012
A Favorite from 2011 and a Challenge for 2012
It's no secret that we at IVP are Margot Starbuck fans. And really, what's not to like? She's funny, she likes to paint polka dots on the rims of her glasses, and she's serious about justice--all reasons why her newest book, Small Things with Great Love, is one of my favorite IVP books of 2011. To be perfectly honest, though, she's not the only reason I'm a fan of her latest book; I also love it because she wrote it for me. Not me personally, but me in my working, introverted, single, suburban life (jealous?).
Truth be told, for several years now I've wanted to be involved in some type of justice work--work that says to the most abused and abandoned: You are a precious child of God, worth fighting for with all the resources we've got, until justice is won. I've done the small, seemingly easy things like giving money to organizations working for justice and doing some reading to become more informed about particular issues. My work at IVP on books like Welcoming Justice, Just Courage, Daughters of Hope and Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle has also kept me connected to the pulse of justice work. But often, as I sit in my safe little cubicle, I wonder if the small things (read: anything less than quitting my job, getting a more "useful" degree like law, medicine or social work, and living among the poor) really matter in the incredibly huge pool of justice work that needs to be done.
In Small Things with Great Love, Margot emphatically says yes, the attempts we make at loving others that seem so small to us do in fact make a difference in the world. She writes:
Is God scowling in judgment because we're changing the batteries in our smoke detectors instead of going door to door collecting eyeglasses to send to Haiti? Is God looking down from heaven feeling sort of resentful that we're using the "look inside" function on Amazon.com instead of visiting prisoners? . . . I simply don't think [that's] the case. Here's why: God's love for you and God's love for the world in need cannot be separated. God's longing to see you liberated for life that really is life can't be neatly pulled apart from God's longing to see the poor liberated for life that really is life. . . . Can you see what great news it is that this serendipitous double liberation isn't something extra we do? . . . . The regular stuff of our lives--the commute to work and the potlucks and home improvement projects and errands and play dates--are the exact places in which we express and experience God's love for a world in need.
Yes, Margot, I can see what great news that is! But it's not just great news for little ol' proofreading, copyediting, cubicle-dwelling me. The truth is that she also wrote this book for you, sweet wanting-to-make-a-difference-in-the-world-by-loving-others-with-the-love-of-Christ Strangely Dim reader. Yes, you. Whether you're married or not; male or female; young or old; or living in the city, the suburbs or the nice, quiet, beautiful countryside waking up to the sounds of cows mooing, there's a chapter specifically for your age and stage of life that's chock-full of small ways you can engage the world around you with real love. "Small things happen when I learn the name of my daughter's school bus driver," Margot writes. "Small things happen when I listen to the dreams of a woman who lives in a group home on my block. Small things happen when I risk crossing a language barrier even though I look really stupid doing it." Her life and her observations of the lives of others have led her to this simple conclusion: "Embracing the adventure of loving a world in need is--at its best--about giving Jesus, in us, access, through us, to the ones already around us he already loves."
Feeling inspired? And maybe even free to stay in your current non-slum work/home situation without guilt, trusting that God can use you in the places he's called you to? Us too. For the month of February, Dave, Suanne, Rebecca and I will be blogging about our attempts to do small things with great love as we walk through our ordinary, pay-the-bills, change diapers, go-grocery-shopping days. And we would love to have you join us in learning to love the people around you--family and strangers, friends and enemies, neighbors and garbage collectors--more intentionally. Then leave us a comment telling us your story so that we can celebrate together God's work in us, through us, around us.
Before we start our adventure together, though, let me offer one word of caution for you and for us here: Doing small things with great love, however more feasible and less overwhelming it might feel than having to single-handedly wipe out AIDS/HIV in Africa, is not easy. It takes intention. It might, for example, involve some sacrifice and hard choices, such as creating a bit more margin in your life so that you have space to listen to and watch for the opportunities God brings your way. It also takes faith--faith to trust that the One who made us with certain gifts and called us to the particular place we are will use us there to love the others he loves. And faith to trust that the One who did miracles with small things like a few fish and a bit of bread or an almost-empty flour pot in a time of drought can still do big things through our small offerings--even an offering of faith as small as a mustard seed.