I want to have a big idea. I want to have an idea so big that it forever changes the way people live. I want to create the solution to overcoming poverty so that no one will ever lack access to clean drinking water or go uneducated or die of treatable diseases or starvation. I want to leave Africa better than when I first arrived. Yes, I have big goals of changing the world, and yes, I’m aware that most likely, none of these things will ever happen.

Lately I’ve been thinking that I’m not doing something big enough though. I’m a goal-oriented person. I like to make checklists and get satisfaction from crossing things off those lists. I like to plan, know my next move, and the one after that. Pretty much everything I’ve done since high school and continue to do is building me up to reach some ultimate goal. Scrubbing the floors, I thought, was not my idea of doing big things in the name of God.

I remember feeling like this before when I went to New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina clean up. I remember thinking about how sore I was going to be at the end of every day from working so hard to build a home for someone. Instead, I found myself picking up rocks and seashells out of the front lawn of a retirement center and eating beignets from Café du Monde. Okay, well there was more to it than that, but it was still not the backbreaking manual labor I had anticipated.

I read a book recently called “Becoming the Answer to our Prayers” by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. I read the whole thing in one day because I was hungry for the knowledge. How do I become the answer?? Well, it didn’t tell me the answer, but I did learn a few other things. The author of the book cites a quote from Mother Teresa that I’ve heard before:

“We cannot do great things, only small things with great love. It is not how much you do but how much love you put into doing it.”

Then the author says, “It is very easy to fall in love with the great things… but we must never simply fall in love with our vision or the five-year plan. We must never fall in love with the ‘revolution.’ We can easily become so genuinely driven by our vision for church growth, community or social justice that we forget the little things, like caring for those around us.”

Hmm…the dude’s got a point. This really resonated within me because of the kind of work I’m doing at this point in my life, but really, it could apply to anyone. Sometimes we can get so caught up following this grand plan for success that we miss out on even greater opportunities that God has for us, or worse, on those who love us the most.

On the other hand, we can become discouraged thinking that what we’re doing doesn’t really make a difference. But the author goes on: “I saw a t-shirt for sale recently. It said, ‘Everybody wants a revolution, but nobody wants to do the dishes.’ It was a constant reminder that the revolution must begin with little acts of love, like washing feet or dishes. One of the most radical things we do can do is love the people we live with, day after day, mistake after mistake.”

That’s what it’s all about really. The work of God is not always glamorous. It may mean scrubbing floors, making oatmeal, wiping runny noses, bathing, feeding, changing diapers…changing lots of diapers. The point is, God knows our desires. God also knows the needs of the world, and he needs to humble us every once in a while too. So maybe someone is tired and all they really need is someone to help clean the dishes, and if I can be that person, then I’m glad to do it.

I’ll probably never go down in history for solving the world’s problems, but I can make a positive difference in someone’s life. I can do small things with great love. From now on, instead of asking God for a big idea, I’m going to ask God to use me as an instrument of His love, and the rest will fall into place.