My new book I wrote with Adam Palmer comes out this week. You can purchase it at www.gosmallbook.com and you will be entered to win the smallest car in the U.S. I have 5 blogs I wrote about going small. Here is #5.
How to Go Small, Part 5: Life Is Not An Emergency
Move out of the way.
Accept the ordinary.
Little things are big.
In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve been spelling the word small this week. And so, as we wrap up our introductory lessons in going small, we add the second “l” to the word and learn that life is not an emergency.
I’m borrowing that phrase from the author Ann Voskamp, who uses it a lot but I want you to think about those five words for a moment. Meditate on that phrase. Let it sink in.
Now ask yourself: How often do I treat life as if it is an emergency? How often do I rush around trying to get from one place to the other? When I’m driving, how many times do I switch lanes in order to get around the next car, and then the next car, and then the one after that—all so I can beat that yellow light before it turns red? How many times have I rushed through the grocery store or the coffee shop or the wherever-I-go because I had to be somewhere?
What would happen if you didn’t have to be there?
What would happen if you scheduled some slow time into your day?
Would the world stop spinning?
Would everything collapse?
Or would you just … finally … breathe?
Speaking of breathing: I am what many people would call an alpha male, so I’m not necessarily a giant fan of flowers; but I do appreciate the delicate beauty they bring to the world. Though I’m not going to learn how to grow roses in my backyard, for example, I will occasionally bring flowers home for my wife or notice them in the neighborhood as we take family walks.
When you think about it, flowers are some of the most ordinarily extraordinary things we have on the planet. They make the place look nicer and smell nicer, for one thing, but then there’s all the scientific stuff we don’t notice—the business with bees and pollination that helps keep mankind alive. You know: no big deal.
But while flowers in general are some of the best small things we have, there’s one particular flower I want to focus on right now, one that botanists have given quite the mouthful of a name: Selenicereus grandiflorus. I’m not even attempting to provide a pronunciation key, because from here on out I’m just going to refer to it by a more common name, which, in the interests of full disclosure, it shares with a couple of other types of flowering plants: “Queen of the Night.”
This is a fascinating plant. A species of cactus originally found in South and Central America, the Queen of the Night exhibits very interesting behavior, especially for a flowering cactus. The Queen of the Night only blooms—at the most—one night per year.
For 364 days of the year, the Queen of the Night is just a plain old cactus, sitting there, doing cactus-y things like being green and having sharp spikes and being a special nuisance when the kids kick the soccer ball into the shrubbery by the front of the house.
But then comes the night—the one night—usually in late spring or early summer, when the Queen of the Night stops being ordinary and becomes extraordinary. On this one special evening, this unique cactus will put out any number of tremendous white, royal-looking flowers during the night, while no one is watching, usually fully blooming around 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. By the time dawn arrives, the flowers are wilted and withdrawn, gone for another year.
We could look at this another way, saying that on this one night of the year, the Queen of the Night reveals itself for what it truly is. It shows its true nature.
It does what it was created to do.
The rest of the time it sits dormant, looking—in all honesty—pretty darn plain. I mean, maybe you have a thing for cacti, but I’m not a big fan of the look. There’s not much of what the majority of us would consider inherently attractive in a cactus—and yet, on that one special night, the Queen of the Night comes alive with delicate beauty and fragrance. This is the extraordinariness that was there all along, that we just couldn’t see because it wasn’t time yet.
My favorite thing about the Queen of the Night is that it doesn’t bloom during the day. Ever. If you don’t know what Queen of the Night is or looks like in its nonflowering state, you could have it around your house for years without ever knowing what it was doing in the secret, quiet stillness of that magical, special evening. Even if you happened to get up in the middle of the night for some reason—to go to the bathroom or to get a drink of water or to let the dog out—the odds are 1 in 365 (that’s a 0.27% chance, by the way) that you’ll get to see the Queen of the Night for what it is, for what God created it to be.
Those flowers don’t bloom for us. They don’t bloom for the people who keep the cactus in their yard. They don’t even bloom for the wildlife that might happen to be around. They won’t be added to anyone’s garden or make their way into a bridal bouquet or into a centerpiece on the cover of Martha Stewart Living magazine.
Those flowers bloom because that’s what God had in mind for them. Though no human would naturally see those flowers without making a substantial effort to notice them, God does see them, and He rejoices in their beauty.
The Queen of the Night doesn’t get a whole lot of recognition from humans.
But God sees it. And He loves it. In fact, He delights in it.
The Queen of the Night does what it does for the glory of God, just like it was created to do.
Everything else is just ordinary buildup to that extraordinary moment, when the glory of the Queen of the Night gets to be revealed for an audience of One.
This is the role of that flower; this is the essence of going small. Life can happen on its own time, and as we slow down, move out of the way, accept the ordinary, let little things be big, and reject the notion that life is an emergency, then we are going small ourselves. And when we go small, Jesus can be big. When we decrease, he can increase. And isn’t that the whole point?
[This post is adapted from the new book Go Small]