Monday, August 6, 2012

Wrestling with Feeling Small

I recently began reading The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb. Since I was a child I’ve had a fascination with all things P.T. Barnum. The book snagged my attention.  Though the main character stands only two feet, eight inches tall, I’m finding I have far more in common with her than I could ever have imagined.

There’s a memorable scene where Mercy Lavinia “Vinnie” Warren Bump is reflecting on when, as children her siblings scratched all their names in the bark of a tree. Creeping myrtle and tall grasses have grown over where her name had been etched.
She describes the feeling:

“It was as if a shadow had fallen over just me, while the rest of the world remained illuminated by bright sunlight. At that moment I felt hidden from all eyes; looking at my name, covered over by weeds, I saw how easily it could disappear forever. I saw how easily I could be forgotten, compared to my brothers and sister, compared to everyone else, everyone who was taller, more noticeable, more visible to the rest of the world. I did not want to be forgotten. More than that, I wanted, desperately—I fell to my knees and began to tear out the weeds, the vines, by their very roots—to be remembered. I wanted my name to be known, beyond this tree, this hill, this pasture, this town.”
Earlier in the book Mercy depicts how she decided to pose herself in the classroom the first time her students would see her:

“I was standing calmly in the middle of the room. I did not to attempt to hide my size by staying behind my desk or perching upon any kind of platform. I simply stood there, as dignified, as tall, as I could possibly make myself appear.”
I’ve been through all kinds of wrestling lately. Faith wrestling. Wrestling that is prevalent during painful spiritual growth. Wrestling that comes before and after surrender.

But I viscerally feel, and keenly identify with Mercy Lavinia “Vinnie” Warren Bump’s pendulum emotions. I want my stories out there. I sometimes stand as tall as I can in hopes I’ll be noticed. But there are times I feel dust mote small.
The scene when she’s looking at her name in the tree bark ends like this…

“My hands were stained green. But my name was now plainly visible…My fierce desire soon faded away into the twilight…and I saw the warm, beckoning lights of home twinkle on, one by one, as Mama began to light the lamps, which shone, at that moment, more brightly than the faint stars on the horizon…so I was content to turn around and return home, content with what I knew was waiting for me there.”
This brings a verse to mind.

“Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of ‘the brightest and the best’ among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these ‘nobodies’ to expose the hollow pretensions of the ‘somebodies’?...Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ.” 1 Cor. 27: 30 (Msg)

And so it is.
There’s hope for all of us who wrestle with feeling small—hope that He will lead us to do BIG things for Him, in Him, and through Him.

Has a book stirred deep thoughts in you lately? Do you ever wrestle with feeling small?

30 comments:

  1. Oh boy has it been a wrestle lately! God is teaching me many many things.

    Love this post, Wendy. Love, love.

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    1. I sometimes ask Him what's up with the repeat lessons to which I finally figure out I left something out of the learning process the first-twenty go arounds. ;-)

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  2. Twice I've tried to reply. Twice my internet connection has thwarted my efforts! Suffice it to say, yes, I've wrestled tons with this issue. I'm learning that God's definition of small and my definition of small are two completely different things!

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    1. I think our eyes will be open to many things in heaven. One of which is how differently God sees things--people, etc.

      Sorry about the connection. I know Blogger can be funky on my end sometimes. Hope it wasn't that. And SO glad you kept trying!

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  3. Yes, I do wrestle, although I don't mind being small so much as feeling swallowed when things feel out of control. God is teaching me good things. I confess to be a work in progress. :)

    Thanks for sharing, Wendy.

    Blessings,
    Karen

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    1. Yeah, that Jonah feeling can get overwhelming for sure. So much has felt out of control over the past six months. It's been a time. That much is true.

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  4. Yep, when I look at ALL the books out there and ALL the authors...and I think, how in the world am I ever going to "succeed"?

    But I'm taking another look at my definition of success.

    And Wendy, you've always stood out to me as one of the kindest, most intelligent souls I've yet met on this writing journey. Your time WILL come. I know it.

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    1. Wow, the words thank you don't feel like enough for what you just wrote. But thank you still.

      With the whole writing deal (which seems to have taken more of a minor role in the surrounding big bad tornadoes around me) I just continue to see value in falling in love over and over again with the craft. The rest will come. I'm trusting that.

      Again thanks for what you see in me. It has to be Him. Because I'm 99% mess.

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  5. Oh boy, Wendy, life sure has been a season of wrestling for me lately. And that verse is one of my faves! I love this version. I'm glad you posted this. Meditating over that verse this morning.

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    1. I recently downloaded The Message to my Kindle. So excited to have it to carry around now. Glad I provided meditation-worthy material.

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  6. Beautiful post, Wendy.

    We went to NYC this past week, and boy did I feel small. I don't often think about how many people are actually in the world. :)

    I'm reading a book by Tullian Tchividjian called Jesus + Nothing = Everything. In it, Tullian says "Our performancism leads to pride when we succeed and to despair when we fail. But ultimately it leads to slavery either way, because it becomes all about us and what we must do to establish our own identity instead of resting in Jesus and what he accomplished to establish it for us. In all its forms, this focus is enslaving."

    That sure stirred some deep thoughts for me! Even if I feel small, God doesn't see me that way. Even if I feel like a failure I need to remember that it's not about what I can give God, but about what He has already given me. :)

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    1. It can get so confusing, eh? Sounds like a rock solid book you're reading. And you bring up a great point, when I'm around lots of people it hits me how much of a dot I am on this timeline.

      All about making it count.

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  7. I think, by the very nature of what we do, we all have days, weeks or even years where we feel very small indeed.

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  8. Wow, that sounds like an amazing book! I love the writing.

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    1. So far I'm truly enjoying it. Resonates with me.

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  9. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, for being vulnerable. I know I echo everyone who has commented today - it's good to know we're not alone in this great, big world.

    Blessings,
    Becky

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    1. I dare to write stuff like this because I've lived long enough, talked with enough women to know I'm not alone. I think this is one of the most important lies to blow out of the water--that we are alone.

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  10. Moving post, Wendy.

    I think we must work and wrestle our way through these "small" times...like you said, "There’s hope for all of us who wrestle with feeling small—hope that He will lead us to do BIG things for Him, in Him, and through Him." ~ BEAUTIFULLY SAID!

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    1. Thanks Loree!

      I sort of piggybacked off another verse. ;-) I think that's okay in this case--to make this point. So much of my life has been a fight. But a good one. One worth fighting.

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  11. I feel small all the time, but it gives God the chance to be big!

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  12. I've been praying for you Wendy. As I've been following your blog, I've learned what a deep and thoughtful person you are and I relate to many of the issues/struggles/questions you've brought up. I'm a wrestler - like Jacob, like you. I wrestle with God all the time. What I loved is this: "I’ve been through all kinds of wrestling lately. Faith wrestling. Wrestling that is prevalent during painful spiritual growth. Wrestling that comes before and after surrender." How perfectly you've described it. Sometimes my greatest wrestling matches with God have come after moments when I realize how truly small I am - and the wrestling allows me to realize how truly big He is. Wrestling with God, who seeks to strengthen me, produces the Spiritual Muscles I need to wrestle those things that seek to destroy me.

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    1. "Those things that seek to destroy me." Got me there. Most of what I fight (see comment to Loree).

      Thank you so much for your prayers, Gabrielle. How cool to learn this and have no idea it's been taking place! Yeah, on the deep thing. There are times I wish I could reach down and pull me out of myself.

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    2. "There are times I wish I could reach down and pull me out of myself." I can't tell you how many times I've said that same thing to my husband. So many times I've been in that "me" pit and I keep digging and digging to find "the answer" to whatever I'm wrestling with, eventually I end up burying myself so deep it's taken the Mighty Hand of God to pull me out. For most of my life I was a pit jumper, but usually it was the pit of "me" that held me the longest. What I had to learn was what Eve should have learned: When the devil whispers a thought into my head, I need to stand on the Word of God and proclaim it, instead of reasoning and debating with that serpent. God's Word is His Will - when I speak it out loud, I'm agreeing with Him - but when I speak the lies the devil has told me, I'm in agreement with him. I don't always succeed, but I'm getting better and better.

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  13. What a wonderful post, Wendy. (And I need to read that book!)

    Yeah, it's easy to feel small. Lost. I think we live in a time when there are more voices than ever fighting for space in our head and heart...but those verses you pointed out from 1 Cor, those remind me of the one always-solid, always-right voice I should be always-listening to. God deliberately chose me...and you. And everything I am, whether I'm feeling tall and noticed or as small as a speck, it's from Him. And when I can get to a point where that's enough, then I'll know I'm enough, exactly as I am.

    Love, love this post!

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    1. Your words went deep. Thanks Melissa. Lost is another good word for it. Spoke with a friend recently who called it a dry season. That works, too. In fact, throw all those together and that's a little piece of what I've been wrestling with.

      Thanks so much for your encouragement!!!

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  14. Two fun things:

    My mom is 70 today.
    I've had a blast plotting and brainstorming novel #9.

    ~ Wendy

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  15. Maybe the 3rd time I try to post a comment, it will work...

    I read Into The Free last week while waiting in countless airports, trying to get home.
    I wasn't satisfied by the ending. I wanted more. More "ummph", more resolutions.
    But who am I? She's published. I'm not.

    Here. Have an invite to my pity party.


    I struggle with comparing my achievements.
    I struggle with thinking I'll never be published.
    I struggle with telling the story properly and not becoming a media clown because I got my facts wrong. Messing with another culture's history is risky, so accuracy is paramount.
    I struggle with feeling like an accidental dot of lint that somehow lands on a masterpiece, and all the real colours ask me how I got there.

    But yesterday, I felt like I could take on the world!
    It's a good thing God doesn't give in to our feeling driven moods, or we'd all be at the bottom of the deep blue sea.

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  16. I'm always thrilled to hear nice.
    This season is autumn favorite of the Japanese people.
    Very bright autumn leaves are beautiful.
    The ancient capital of Japan, please search Kyoto.
    Great ancient capital of the world leads to impress foreign people.
    I'm sorry I was wrong spell.
    Japanese friends.
    Ryoma Sakamoto.

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  17. I love this post. That relentless need for significance can be a terrible task-master. I find that when I play the comparison game, that's when I feel the smallest. I can always find someone farther along than I am-- and rather than sticking to God's unique plan for me, I deviate over to coveting what he has for someone else. But when I keep my focus on Him, on what He has called me to do, I am content.

    I think I might need to purchase a set of blinders. Seriously.

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