It seems a little crazy but I’m kind of a fan of the Tiny House Movement. Don, my patient husband, just shakes his head and chuckles because he knows the contents of my closet would barely fit in the 400 square feet (or less) that constitutes a bonafide tiny house.
Even so, something about going small appeals to me, especially in this season of life. I imagine the freedom that would come with whittling down our possessions (and expenses) to leave more room for relationships, for travel, for following the whimsy of a pop-up dream.
Then I think about our decidedly non-tiny (but not huge) house, especially during the holidays when family and friends gather. I think about the tantalizing aroma of something baking in the oven, about the shrieking laughter of our grandgirls bouncing off the walls, about the deep momma-joy that comes from knowing that, once again–just for tonight–our whole little flock is perched under this one, blessed roof. Though there would be trade-offs to going tiny, I’m not so sure I’m ready for them.
But ready or not, there are times we are forced to go small; that can mean unwanted constraints which seem both uncomfortable and unfair. These seasons of diminishment come in many guises. Here are some of the most common:
A job loss or cut-back often means a recalibration of the budget as well as our vision of how the future could look. There go the home repairs we were hoping to do. The kids’ braces will have to wait. And that vacation we were looking forward to…forget about it.
Divorce, or the severing of any close relationship, brings a reduction from ‘we’ to ‘me.’ The resulting sense of loss–the feeling of being utterly diminished–can be emotionally devastating. How is it possible to move forward when it seems like half your heart, and big chunks of your identity, have been hacked away?
Aging can bring with it a sense of “less-ness,” of being bypassed and overlooked in favor of the cooler, younger versions of humanity. I once read a study claiming the most invisible people in American society are women over the age of 50. Yikes! That would mean a lot of us are inwardly waving our hands and saying, “Hey, I’m still here! I have something to contribute so please don’t ignore me.” When I consider this, I’m reminded to look past the wrinkles and gray hair (including my own–thank God for hair coloring) and into the eyes of that next older persn I meet…to draw her out with questions, to hold still long enough to soak up some of the accrued wisdom from his days on this planet.
There are so many other things we face that bring a sense of being minimized in some way: a loved one’s death, the unkind words of a critic, a serious illness. While I might not go all tiny-house on Don and my family any time soon, I’ve learned some things from the movement that can make a difference in those inevitable seasons of diminishment:
Going small is a time for sorting. Not everything from the past will fit into this new season; it’s time to let some things go. Do you really need that old grudge? Could it be time to get rid of the faded “I can’t do this” attitude taking up so much space in your heart?
What if smallness just means we only get to bring our very best?
What will serve you and others well as you move forward? What ‘best’ do you want to bring with you? Start there.
Going small will offer new freedoms. Sure, the constraints are pretty obvious. But don’t overlook this chance to explore new dimensions of God’s faithfulness and even those underdeveloped strengths in your own life. Talk to God and then ask yourself, “What if…” What if I finally joined that small group at church? What if I began volunteering at the food bank? What if I looked into what it would take to start the small business I’ve been dreaming about for years? What if I took that class? What if I used this extra time on my hands to mentor that struggling 16-year-old in my neighborhood?
Going small doesn’t mean going away. People who’ve embraced tiny-house living exude enthusiasm as they talk about the richness this lifestyle brings. It’s about living deeper, not bigger, they claim. That sounds a little like the rugged, outdoorsy prophet who said, “He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) John the Baptist knew going smaller to make Jesus bigger was worth the exchange. He traded in fleeting popularity for eternal significance, being the go-to prophet to the point-to prophet. And even when John was diminished from the expanse of his broad desert home to a cramped, filthy cell in Herod’s dungeon…even when doubts threatened to compress his faith into nothingness, Jesus said this: I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John. (Luke 7:28, NIV) It’s almost as if he was saying, “Hang in there, John. You feel utterly diminished but you can’t even imagine the vast imprint your life is leaving on this world.”
I wish I could take your face in my hands, look you in the eye, and say the same thing to you, my friend. You feel diminished, cut back, made smaller by life’s circumstances. But trust your smallness to God’s bigness. Who knows…going smaller may just become your greatest adventure!
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