When I begin to get overwhelmed with the state of the world, my first impulse is to pull my soft, fluffy white duvet around me and settle in with a good book. I want to hide. The only problem is I have four small children that need things like food, shelter and clothing, and a mom to sign permission slips and make last-minute Cat in the Hat outfits for Dr. Seuss dress-up day at school. (Why is it always at bedtime that these things come up?) So the reading in bed will have to wait.
After we dropped off the said Cat-in-the-Hat clad children, I pushed my two littlest up a large dirt walking path in the middle of our suburban neighborhood. The urbanite in me wants to recoil at the planned nature of this pathway, and the woman who fell in love with Utah’s Wasatch Front wants to cry about the small hills that now meet my eyes instead of snow-capped mountain glory. But I am here now. I need to feel the ground under my feet to get a sense and love for this place. And instead of a day spent reading in bed and hiding, I really know that I need healthy food and a good walk when the world becomes too much to bear.
So I pushed my littles up that dirt path and we quieted our voices to hear birds twittering. I handed them cheese sticks and pretzels while we trudged up together. Then at the top, I let them loose to run and fall down along walking paths underneath huge power lines.
I felt pulled in so many directions there under the power lines. What do the suburbs have to teach me besides excess and scarcity? Where can I find space for my children to run free? How do I keep my eyes from wandering to the large houses and not covet? How do I not think myself morally superior since I’ve moved from an urban center?
And yet, how could I be setting myself up as judge over this swathe of humanity? How could I be so very arrogant?
I ask myself, really, how am I to love a new people and place? What sort of offering do I have to give to this suburb where I now find myself not only living but also planting a church in?
Like the widow’s mite, my offering is so very small. It is only presence. But, that I’m finding, is more than enough. So I do all I know to do. I pray. I pray to the God of wild things that we’d all—rural, urbanite and suburbanite—be struck with a restless curiosity that leaves us wanting Jesus.
And I throw myself into the work at hand. I trudge upwards, huffing and puffing with 65 pounds of wiggly children in a double stroller, anxious for some endorphins to take me out of my head for a moment, with all the insistent questions. At the crest of the hill, I stop. I see a small, graceful movement. My children quiet. There are several deer bounding through the tall grasses, away from the rustle of newcomers. It stops me in my tracks, this unexpected grace. My breath catches in my throat.
It is a glorious gift. This peace of wild things upends my dreaming about houses and comfort. I can stop arguing with myself about rural, suburban and urban benefits. I stop. I marvel. I watch. I smile. We step gingerly down the path, hoping to find these deer again, but they are gone.
Their offering was small, momentary, and seen by only a few. But I feel the effect of their presence. Because after seeing them, my feet could feel the path again and my eyes stopped roving and judging. Like all grace, it was an offering that upended my own navel-gazing to see a connected world right where I thought I had it all figured out. I was drawn out of the past and out of the future, and anchored right to this spot of land.
My offering is small, but it is enough. My offering may be relatively unseen, like those bounding deer, but it is enough. It is more than enough.
My offering today may only be to my children to let them run, wild and free, down dirt pathways. My offering may be to craft sentences that may make someone stop and see beauty – to bring a smile of delight like the deer brought me. My offering may be the mundane act of washing up after a pizza dinner on family movie night. My offering may be the hard wrenching work of laying down myself for someone else – whether it’s in loss of sleep, or a listening ear, or uttering the hard words, “I was wrong. I’m sorry.”
Friends, an offering is simply a very small gesture of presence. It’s unclenching our hands and opening our eyes to others, instead of getting stuck inside our heads. It’s awakening to the “now,” instead of looping about the “has been” and “not yet.” It’s experiencing the Kingdom of God in the dirt under our feet, right here, right now, wherever you’re placed.
Let us be people who love, who continue offering our small gifts of presence. It is enough. It is always, already more than enough.