For someone with a significance/achievement addiction, it’s hard to work in campus ministry. The vast majority of my peers have high powered, respected jobs that pay quite well. While I, to put it bluntly, don’t.
A bunch of years ago, several of us on the Harvard ministry team found ourselves struggling with this conundrum. It’s hard to earn a prestigious degree or two and then raise your own salary for a job that no one seems to understand.
As we prayed and processed (and cried), I remembered something from John Dawson’s Taking Our Cities for God. Dawson wrote that cities have “spirits” (usually bad) and that the way you fight that “spirit” is to embody the opposite. So in a city full of pride, it took men and women humbling themselves (literally prostrating their bodies on the sidewalk) to “break” the power of that “spirit.”
When we asked ourselves what the “spirit” of Harvard was, we realized Harvard worships BIG lives—big achievements, big names, big prestige, big fame, big impact. And everything in me wants that too.
But if we were to really bring good news to Harvard, perhaps we needed to embody the opposite of Harvard. Perhaps we needed to embrace small faithful lives. Which made some of us (namely me) cry even harder.
St. Therese of Lisieux
On Sunday, my pastor, Dave Schmelzer, preached about St. Therese of Lisieux, the Catholic nun known as “the Little Flower” who died of TB at age 24. She originated the “Little Way,” which emphasized performing little acts with great love. She was the inspiration for Mother Teresa, who in desiring to follow St. Therese’s Little Way, went to the very “littlest” in society—the dying outcasts of Calcutta.
He emphasized how little faithful acts can lead to big changes in the world–e.g. Mother Teresa.
Here are some cool quotes I found online by St. Therese:
This week, as I run around like a crazed woman—trying to wrap up my work before I leave Boston for over a month, tying up loose ends for the Cana marriage session next week, attempting to not panic over all the things that aren’t getting accomplished, it was good to reflect on St. Therese’s life and remember that if I’m going to live in Boston and work with very elite universities, I too may be called to my own little way—the small life.
I hope tomorrow I can take a deep breath and just do the little task before me with a lot less grumpiness and a lot more love.