Two years ago, the Lord blessed us with the house we now live in….it was nothing short of a miracle! We were filled with such gratitude to finally have an actual house since moving to the Austin area almost five years ago now. However, the house needed (and still needs!) some work. Periodically over the last two years we have made some minor improvements: flooring, new toilets, painting, sealing the garage floor, adding a back porch… Mostly they have been small things that we could do ourselves or with the help of a few friends! The house is almost 30 years old now, so things are just wearing out. One thing we have really needed to do (and haven’t yet) is replace the majority of the doors. We need to upgrade or at least paint them! As most of you know, when it comes to home-improvement, it’s a never-ending list!
Well, simply due to age, the hinges on many of these doors makes a squeaking noise when being opened or closed. Not a big deal, really, but also not difficult to fix. However, this is something that we have endured for two solid years now. The pantry door is the worst! It has a loud, obnoxious squeak that sounds as if it is tattling on you when you go for that late-night snack! My husband has circumvented this problem by simply leaving the pantry door open all the time. Hey, it definitely is one way to cut down on the annoying squawking throughout the day! However, our pantry – being tiny and disorganized – is an eye-sore for me, and looking at the chaos while the door is open is slightly stressful. So….I finally did it. I finally oiled the hinges. No, we didn’t have WD-40, but somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered that cooking spray would work. So, I grabbed a paper towel to catch the dribble and sprayed my Kirkland’s brand cooking spray a few tentative times on each hinge. I then realized that the door knob also needed to be sprayed, so I took care of that….then….VOILA! To my surprise and incongruous delight I opened and shut a SILENT pantry door! I don’t even know how many times I opened and shut the thing just to make sure it actually did work and the silence wasn’t just a fluke due to how determinedly I was moving the door!
It is almost embarrassing to admit how much pleasure that this pantry door has brought me over the past few days. Every time I open it, the blissful silence of that act brings a slight smile to my lips…. For real! We can now all open the door without fear! WHY DIDN’T I DO THIS SOONER?!??!
Good question. We never had the WD-40. We never thought to buy any… It wasn’t a big enough bother to remember that it needed to be fixed…Procrastination…. I think it was a little of all of those things. But I also think that, at least in my mind, “fixing the doors” was connected to a long and overwhelming mental home-improvement list. I know this sounds crazy, but I think that I just assumed that on a some “certain weekend” in the future, we would set aside time to work on the house, and that oiling the hinges or working on the doors in general would be neatly added to the list. We would then remember to get the WD-40, or buy new hinges, or even new doors, and set to work. In my somewhat convoluted way of thinking, this very tiny task was associated with a very large task, and that made it seem like something I needed to *wait* to do. Unfortunately, I do see that I am wired to think this way A LOT of the time.
Do you ever do this? Do you ever put off doing anything at all because you feel like you are not ready to do everything that might be required for the ultimate result?
What if instead of associating the small task at hand with some larger end goal project, we had the courage to connect the doing of the task to the very present and constant act of character formation? I know I just went a little deep, there, but it’s true isn’t it? I had to untangle the correction of the squeaky hinges from a far-off-day-project to be able to see that it was something that I could easily do today…And that, in so doing, I really am working on the overall goal. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I got a literal psychological lift from doing that one small thing that I had put off for so long.
How does this apply in other ways? Do I withhold a loving word from my spouse today (such a small gesture) to save for just the “right time” (some date night in the future)? Do I wait to eat healthily until I can do a “perfect” meal plan which includes a long grocery shopping trip and hours of meal-prepping (the big project), or do I just start with one simple meal that looks good to me and go with it? Do I wait until I’m a better person (a big project) to really start following the Lord, or do I just go ahead and read one verse of scripture today and try to work on what it says?
For whatever reason, some of us are hard-wired to “go big or go home,” me, included. But I am beginning to see that this attitude does not serve me in many areas of my life. Yes, it’s true that there are some ways that this mindset can be helpful, but I have greatly lacked the discernment to see the areas where it’s hurting me.
Zechariah 4:10 is a beautiful verse. The New Living Translation says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…” What a comfort! Yes, it’s a small thing, but the Lord rejoices to see the work begin! Whatever the project is – whether it’s an external, practical project, or an internal, heart-deep type project – God rejoices to see it begin!
We often use the phrase “humble beginnings” to describe the past of someone who has now become famous or otherwise great in our eyes. The truth is, though, that everyone and every thing has a humble – or small – beginning. The journey to a great feat is often a series of small, diligent acts.
At the risk of seeming a little tedious (my specialty!), I also just want to highlight the joy in just doing a small thing, even if it doesn’t appear to be connected to something greater. Because, in reality, our character is really the sum of our thoughts and behaviors, isn’t it? The word of God says that even giving a cup of cold water to someone is an act to be rewarded (Matthew 10:42).
So I encourage you today: just do the thing. Buy the flowers, send the text, pick up the tennis shoes, put a load of laundry in, write a paragraph, look them in the eye, give the smile, rake one bag of leaves, fill up your water bottle, respond with kindness, pick the one recipe, hold a hand….whatever it is… Just go ahead and do that one small thing.