just a little bit

I’ve always believed in the power of little things.  Yes, it sounds sentimental, like a motivational poster with a picture of a butterfly or something (“One little flutter of a butterfly’s wings….”) Blech.

It’s just that in my way of thinking, getting the big things right is impossible unless I start small.  And in my experience, if I forget about the small stuff, my whole life gets out of balance.

Over the weekend I found myself re-converted to my belief.  Last Thursday night, the college students shared ideas on taking a Sabbath rest.  (Most of the folks in the room admitted to already being tired this early in the semester!)

It struck me how all the ideas being batted around the room were so, well, little.  The activities the students described were rich and meaningful, but just … short.  This is no criticism of the students!  They are simply part of a larger society that seems to have no use for big commitments anymore.

In fact, as I mulled over our discussion, I remembered some other things I’ve read, suggesting that people of faith try something little.  Donna Freitas, author of Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance and Religion on America’s College Campuses recommended in a recent interview* that students try temporary abstinence from sex.  She wondered if short periods of abstinence might lead to a greater commitment, once students have a breather from worrying about sexual performance and have a chance to rest in their own beds.  Somewhere else (but I can’t remember where) I read a suggestion that Christians try small bits of “fasting” or “abstinence” from things like TV or junk food.  Even the secular magazines I read regularly have articles about cutting down on meat or gasoline or some other commodity, but not cutting it out entirely.

Only one student in that group brought up the concept of a total Sabbath.  Her relatives had been farmers, and they took Sundays off. No cooking (cold leftovers for all three meals), no laundry, no cleaning.  They just got dressed, went to church, visited relatives, and probably washed the dishes.  (I can’t imagine a Southern woman leaving dishes in the sink overnight!)

Wow.  I guess this is where we are as a society.  Sometimes I think the only true commitment we make is to our cell phones.  We’re accessible 24/7, ready to go over tomorrow’s meeting with the boss while we cook dinner, or to check Facebook while we supposedly have lunch with our significant other.

Other than the phone, what commands our true commitment?  Work?  Hmm… everyone checks Facebook at work too.  Marriage?  I wonder if there would be so many marriage books on the market if couples just took a little more time to talk.  Taking care of our bodies?  As long as I can do it in 10 minutes or less!  Taking care of our souls?  Um, maybe later when things calm down at work/school/whatever.

Of course I still believe in the little things.  I really like Donna Freitas’ suggestion.  Also, later on, I’m going to post some of the Sabbath ideas shared by the students.  Maybe these little things can help us rearrange our commitments.

I’ll close this post with one of my favorite photos.  A few years ago, some of the students in our group organized their own camping trip.  Those who went kept talking about what a moment of rest it was, despite the campfire that wouldn’t get going and the bugs and the heat.  One day they rented canoes and just set out in the calm of North Carolina’s eastern rivers.  And on that day, they rested.  If only we could make a commitment to this.

* Donna Frietas’ interview with Patheos:  http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Sex-on-Campus-An-Interview-with-Donna-Freitas.html

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