Go to the small places

by Jonathan Trotter on September 4, 2016

There are three places that make me feel very small.

  1. Standing at the edge of the sea, watching the never-ending motion as water is pulled by the unseen and unrelenting forces of gravity and wind and planetary motion.
  2. Standing at the foot of a mountain, pondering the historical shifting and breaking that pushed stone into sky
  3. And sitting with a client during pastoral counseling, listening as they delve into the deepest parts, the pains and hurts that few see.

In the small places, I feel inferior and inadequate, unable to change much or make an impact. Do you have those places? Truth be told, those feelings of “smallness” are why I love the sea and mountains; that’s why I seek them out. But I don’t typically welcome those feelings on the job, with clients. Maybe I should.

Maybe we all need to go to the small places. On purpose.

Sometimes, we do long for the small places. For a reminder about our place in things. For context. But sometimes the small places break in upon us uninvited; a diagnosis, an accident, a betrayal. A terror attack.

The small places cause us to remember reality, whether we like it or not. They are sobering splashes of cold water. When we overdose on our own importance or the magnitude of evil in the world, the small places are the antidote. Narcan for the soul. Or at least, they can be.

Lately, God has been asking me to “go to the small places.” And to remember who he is. It’s fairly easy to do that by sea and stone, but I have to work at remembering him in the other places.

But I will go to the small places. I will embrace my smallness and remember the One who makes mountains skip like a calf. The one whose voice is powerful and majestic, splintering cedars and twisting oaks. The one whose voice thunders over the very depths of the sea. (Psalm 29)

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I will go to the small places.
I will stand and be small and point upwards.
I will go to the places where my ego and abilities are rightly overwhelmed.
I will go where my ambition slams up against the reality of my inadequacies.

For it is there that I remember: I am not God.

And in the small places, I will shout the only thing that makes sense. GLORY! Whether by the edge of seas or mountains, or in the presence of the wounded, I will remember Him.

I will remember my place in the scheme of things, refusing to bow to the news or nature or narcissism.

I will remember my place before the throne of God, and I will join the ongoing chorus: “In his temple everyone shouts, ‘Glory!’” (Psalms 29:9)

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What is your small place? Where do you feel inadequate and overwhelmed?

  • Language school?
  • Your ministry job?
  • Reading international news?
  • In your role as a parent?

Is God asking you to go to the small places? To remember to say the only thing we can say in such places? Glory!

What would change if, in those very places, we looked up?

Now, sometimes we say Glory and we’re all jumpy thumpy happy clappy. Other times not so much. Sometimes we pause and remember and say Glory through tears and valleys. Sometimes we say Glory through protest, arguing with God.

We must remember our calling. Our invitation, really.

For we have been invited to enjoy God forever and ever. We have been invited to look at the world differently. Yes there’s pain, and yes there’s political turmoil, and yes there’s suffering on a massive scale. That is all true.

And there is God.

And yes, he has called us to respond to the pain around us with love and compassion, and with cries of justice for the poor and oppressed.

But in order to do it, in order to maintain a Christlike posture towards the people around us, we must visit the small places. And there, aware of our size and his, we must say, over and over and over again:

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end.
Alleluia. Amen.

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About Jonathan Trotter

Jonathan is a missionary in Southeast Asia, where he provides pastoral counseling at a local counseling center. He also serves as one of the pastors at an international church. Before moving to the field with his wife of sixteen years and their four kids, he served as a youth pastor in the Midwest for ten years. He enjoys walking with people towards Jesus and eating imported Twizzlers. | www.trotters41.com | facebook: trotters41 | twitter: @trotters41
  • Marilyn Gardner

    And there is God – yes, yes, and yes. Love this reminder on a day that feels grey inside and out. In my new book at one point I say this: “I had not yet learned that the phrase ‘but God…’ anticipates divine intervention in the broken mess of humanity,” “And there is God…” does the same thing. Thank you so much for this.

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Marilyn! I can’t wait to read your new book! Is it coming out soon?

      • Marilyn Gardner

        One would hope! It’s been a long process – I would love to get a copy to you and Elizabeth for an early review – thoughts?

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