Growing up with 2 older brothers will regularly remind you of your inferiority, primarily in terms of physical stature. For me, this reminder was all the more in my face, and what was in my face was really their collar bones as both of my brothers grew to be around 6 foot and 5 inches tall.
I was always small and easy to throw around. I always needed help with carrying heavy things and reaching tall ones. I was the go to one to sit in someone’s lap when we only had 4 seats rather than 5. I was referred to as “little one”.
Recently, when my Dad suddenly passed away, I felt the very opposite. Despite the fact that I was only 22 years old, 2 weeks shy of graduating from college, I was making life or death medical decisions, caring for my Mom in the loss of her husband, filing life insurance claims, and really having to be a big girl.
My mom and I talked about a month after everything about just how old we felt. I told her I felt that on my birthday (the day my Dad passed away), I felt I had aged at least 10 years. Nothing about me felt only 22.
But here recently, I’ve felt back in that place of being the shortest, the youngest, and the weakest. I’ve just felt small.
I read a note a very kind and thoughtful friend wrote me the day after she had sat with me as I cried. In it she said, “I want you to know you can always be small with me.”
And it’s exactly how I’ve felt. Last week I moved into a new (to me) house. I got all of my stuff inside and my family headed home and I had this moment when I had to make myself literally focus on breathing one breath at a time because everything hit me at once. While I’ve had to be so big, inside I am still so small. There was no part of me that had the energy to unpack and move in, no part of me that felt capable of managing a house and bills, and I just felt really overwhelmed and really small.
But there’s also a sense of being small I’ll never get back.
You see when you grow up having a Dad like mine, there is something about his presence. Despite the fact that I always feel like I have to have a plan, keep my ducks in a row, and always make sure everyone is taken care of, with my Dad somehow all of that went away. I knew he was capable. With him, my mind could rest because I knew he had it all under control, had my best interest in mind, and would do absolutely anything to keep me safe.
And I feel small when I miss him.
I feel small when I’m doing laundry and think for a second that something in the dryer is his, when I find a dryer sheet and remember how he always thought it was good luck to find a dryer sheet in your clothes.
I miss the feeling of being squeezed so tightly in his chest and knowing just how very safe I was.
I felt small when I popped a tire tonight and had no clue how to change it. And I feel too small to go to get it repaired without a Dad to call on the other end to help me know what to do.
I’ve tried to tell myself that I’m feeling small so God can show up for me big, but I honestly feel like He just keeps making me smaller. And smaller. And the moment I start to feel like I have everything under control again, something else hits the fan to remind me that I don’t.
That nothing is predictable. No part of creation is under my planning or supervision. I am not in charge of my safety or capable of protecting myself.
So what do I do with that?
I’m learning to be small with Jesus in ways I never have before.
I am learning to stop coming to Him offering Him whatever I can muster up and keep pretending to be okay. I’m coming to Him weak and empty and broken.
And He hasn’t met me in every empty place.
I know that’s not what you want to hear. It’s not what I want to be saying.
He hasn’t. Sure, He has been mindful of it and loved me in it, but there have been gaps that I have felt the depths of. And I think He stays the satisfaction on this side of Heaven to remind us of the brokenness of the world we live in. We feel the pain of it to remember that despite the beauty of His presence, it is not our complete healing and satisfaction. Sometimes there are gaps. Sometimes I sit in my car and cry because my heart gets broken and it just feels like it isn’t surprising anymore.
I’m learning to be small with other people.
I have fought since I could breathe to have it all together for everyone else. I needed to be the leader, the front runner, the caretaker, whether or not in the spot light. I have needed to perform, to prove, to measure up and sometimes the ground underneath your feet gets taken. And I’ve been stripped of this to the point that I have been lost as to how to even interact with people. I’ve wanted to keep people safe from the depths of the sadness and scariness of my heart, but thankfully blessed friends have pushed deeper. I’ve learned that ministering to people doesn’t mean being invincible, but being broken with them. I’ve learned to stop trying to be people’s Savior and remember just how much I need one.
I’m learning that it’s okay to be small.
I remember my brothers getting annoyed at having to help me sometimes. They didn’t understand why I couldn’t just take care of myself or why I couldn’t just understand what they did. I remember feeling so bad and telling myself I would just fake it and be big. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said “six feet tall.” I felt shame for being needy and not being good enough and tried to muster up the strength to function at the same level of my two brothers who were older and bigger. But you can’t function as what you aren’t, at least not without failure and difficulty. And I’ve tried to be big and strong amidst feeling broken into a million little pieces. I’m learning to accept that I’m not called to fill every gap. And that sometimes, the best way to love and care for someone is for me to allow myself to be exactly where I’m at.
I’ve learned to empathize with moments people felt small in Scripture.
I love that God’s Word is not full of people who were constantly put together, but people who were very in touch with their emotions. I’ve sat and wept with Hannah on the temple steps for her barrenness to the point the priest thought she was drunk. I’ve felt the pain of Jacob’s heart when he was brought Joseph’s bloody clothes and told his son was killed. I’ve agreed with David as he pours his heart out to God saying, “Darkness is a better friend than you.” I’ve understood where Mary was coming from when Jesus came to town after Lazarus died and she didn’t go to Jesus, but stayed in her house. And I’ve understood where Martha was coming from when she went right to Him and chewed Him out.
I’m learning that “you can’t experience full recovery until you let your pain be fully uncovered”.
I’ve wanted to tie this up with some truth or hope. We like resolution and happy endings that make all of the pain worth it. The hard part, is sitting in the reality of not having a resolution. Hard parts that characters of Scripture can empathize with us in, like Job, Stephen, Ruth, Jesus, etc. I’ve wanted to “hide my crazy” and just be okay. But you can’t be something you’re not, without failure or difficulty. Our Western brains have been told to find whatever 3 step system we can to healing, wholeness, and wellness and sometimes the best thing for us is to just allow ourselves to be what we are- small.