By Kris Bruun
Like many people, I’ve had somewhat more time on my hands during these Covid days, and I’ve soaked up some it in my favorite escape: reading. Many of the books that have spoken to me significantly during these times either tell the story of or were written during World War II.
I began with some of the works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed shortly after Easter in 1945. I went on to C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Although Tolkien swore that The Lord of the Rings was not about WWII, the echoes of the Great War that Tolkien was living through permeate the story.
I’ve just finished Blackout by Connie Willis, which, although a science fiction novel, describes in vivid detail life during the war in Britain. Britain fought alone for several years until the U.S., pushed into it by Pearl Harbor, finally joined the fight against Hitler. British citizens endured rationing, blackouts, and bombings, sending their children out of London to live with strangers in order to save their lives.
What has struck me about the citizens’ reaction to the war is the consciousness that small actions mattered. “Just doing my bit,” is an expression that is used over and over again in their conversations.
Sometimes, I think, we struggle with what we are called to do, not because our callings are so overwhelming, but because our daily callings simply do not seem big enough to matter in the grand scheme of things. Yet Jesus assures us, and Paul echoes him, that our daily callings matter.
Chaos Theory, sometimes known as the Butterfly Theory, is a fascinating modern branch of mathematics that has spilled over into other realms. It demonstrates mathematically that very small changes in input can cause radical changes in results. The scientists seem to be trying to get at the idea that the universe is interconnected.
Long before Chaos Theory, people had an intuitive grasp of these interconnections. My mother used to proclaim this verse to me when I complained that some task was too insignificant to matter: “For want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe, the horse was lost; for want of a horse, the rider was lost; for want of a rider, the kingdom was lost! And all for the want of a horseshoe nail!” So quit arguing with me and go dust the living room! Because you don’t want to be the one responsible for losing the kingdom!
I didn’t always get it then, but I’m beginning to get it now.
Jesus says, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much…” (Luke 16:10). Paul says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Neither Jesus nor Paul suggest that you can forget about the “little things” because only the “big things” (according to our limited judgment) are really important.
I have decided to give up on some of the “big” questions. Why do we have a pandemic? What will be the final outcome of the Coronavirus event? Will civil divisions unmake our country? Will I live long enough to see the economy recover? And all the rest…
Instead, I have started to focus on the small actions that are within my sphere. Not only has this reduced my anxiety level over things I can’t control anyway, but this attitude has freed up energy to do the small things better, and in a more loving way.
Yes, I’m going to be “doing my bit.”