When I was a little girl, I was fascinated by the stories of those who were able to do big things that changed the world. Hearing about people like Saint Joan of Arc, Saint Catherine of Sienna, and Saint Mother Teresa inspired my soul and filled my heart with a longing to serve God in a big magnificent way that would change the world.
In my little girl mind, I was going to grow up to be a ballerina. I planned to be a ballerina who founded her own ballet company and who would write and perform new ballets that told bible stories. I imagined flocks of people filling up theater seats, coming to watch my biblically based ballets. I dreamed of spreading God’s word to hundreds and thousands of people through dance. In this way, I dreamed I would change the world.
But as I grew older, I became discouraged and disappointed. It seemed that for a while everything was working for me. I had the opportunity to move to from Texas to New York City to study with my all-time favorite ballerina, Gelsey Kirkland.
But after moving to New York, I found myself lost and confused. It seemed the opportunities to do these big things for God never presented themselves. Not only did the opportunities not present themselves, they totally failed. I ended up quitting ballet, moving back to Texas, and living with my parents.
During this time, I found myself questioning my calling from God. How was I called to serve? What big thing was I going to do to change the world?
In my heart, I saw Jesus laugh and smile. This was the first time in my life I had ever sat down, asked Him what He wanted me to do, and pause for an answer. And the answer was not anything I had expected.
In my prayer, I was reminded of the story of Saint Thérèse, affectionally called, the Little Flower by Catholics. I had heard her story many times while growing up and I had always found her story unexciting.
Saint Thérèse was a French Carmelite nun in Lisieux, who is famous for initiating “The Little Way.” She never did any apparent big deeds for God. She never offered any great sacrifices or performed any mighty works. Instead, she performed all her duties to the best of her ability while prayerfully offering her work to Christ. After God reminded me of her, I was relieved to find that even this simple saint could relate to my longing to do big things for God. She wrote in her autobiography:
“For a long time I had been asking myself why souls did not all receive the same amount of grace. Jesus deigned to instruct me about this mystery. Before my eyes He placed the book of nature and I understood that all the flowers created by Him are beautiful… that, if all the little flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime garb. That same is true of the world of souls, the Lord’s living garden.“
Even today, these words of Saint Thérèse, the Little Flower, humble and inspire me. In my life the biggest obstacle in serving others has been thinking that certain small acts of service were not enough to please God. By always looking for rare, grand acts of service, I was missing out on the many little ones. A small act of kindness does not lack meaning and purpose.
I am reminded of the story found in John 4:2-26 where Jesus meets a Samaritan woman drawing water at a well during the hottest part of the day. This woman, a lonely outcast in her own society, has her life transformed by one simple act of Jesus: He sits down and spends time with her. Jesus performs no mighty miracles and offers no large sacrifice. In fact, he even asks her to spare him some of her water. But it is in his small act of spending time with her and drinking water with her, that this woman comes to know Him as the messiah. And once she knows him, she goes into the city and brings others to Christ. This one small, unexciting deed of Jesus leads to the transformation of many lives.
While we should be open to doing big things for God, we cannot neglect or dismiss the importance of small acts of kindness. As Saint Thérèse, the Little Flower shows us, and as Jesus shows us in John 4:2-26, small acts of service can make a big difference.