Back in October I sat and watched the water carve small particles of rock away from the rim from which it poured. Down beneath the water crashed into the chunks of rock that had fallen before. It’s just like working out or training our hearts, bodies, or minds.
Relating to God seems to work in the same way. There are charisms that would be natural abilities in athletics, but in the spiritual life they represent special graces that we are born with for certain gifts or talents. Even those gifts can grow by constant small acts.
When we start to think about what we are going to do to improve our relationship with God or with our neighbors or our families, it’s a mistake to only look for big and grandiose ways of improving. Instead, you start small and remain consistent.
The tortoise and the hare teach a similar lesson, but this isn’t about winning it’s about finding the place where God can make us who we are meant to be who we can be as we grow in grace. Using growth metaphor pulls in images of trees or gardens where everything happens on a scale of time that isn’t really in our direct perception, and that is the scale where we can see quite transformation in our character and person.
Those small daily acts of loving God and neighbor that transform us should be inclusive. Categories of labor help us to write a sort of checklist of spirituality, and the two big categories of work would be that of conversation and service.
Conversation includes prayer, meditation, and study. But it could be broadened to include fasting and visiting the sick and imprisoned. On a social level, it is relating to those who are in different social economic positions and recognizing them as brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s a complex pattern of listening and making space in time to hear the problems that we are called to bear together.
Service is the idea that we labor with God and with one another to the benefit of all. From building houses with Habitat to volunteering at the food pantry and everything else including our own jobs, this is our service and work for ourselves and those around us.
The result of this work?
Transformation… genuine and real change in our characters and lives. Because being grounded in these small acts of labor is where we flourish as human beings.