There must be a reason in life for an attraction to the big and I am trying to figure it out. The allure of the Big pulls at me from all directions.
I see it in the papers every day. Rich people who buy homes costing many millions of dollars. Homes with big pools, big property, big rooms, big everything. Movies that cost millions to make and that can easily rake in many more millions, if not billions of dollars. Fame that is accompanied by everything that is big -- big headlines, big tours, fat contracts, big shot agents, huge entourages.
I think we all suffer from the tsunamis of the big. We are swept away again and again and want what slams us all over the place. We are knocked off our small pedestals by the bully of the big and lose the promise and possibility of the small.
I saw the Beatles, way back in 1965, at Shea Stadium in New York and paid $5 for the ticket. The good old days. Bigness overtook the Beatles. Bigness bloated the prices of tickets, which are now inflated to hundreds of dollars. Nothing that smells of a potential mega-profit remains modest and within reach for long.
I recently went to an Earth Day celebration at Ignatius House in Atlanta, a real nice retreat facility. There were several talks. One of them was given by a couple from Alabama who operate Moore's Farm.
The farm is a place that grows organic, healthy food, which is distributed to markets in the area. It is a small enterprise, compared to the gonzo food producers in this country. The couple emphasized the smallness of their endeavor, but stressed that if enough people followed suit, they would make a difference.
Later, in that same week, I read some quotes from Wendell Berry, who recently gave the Jefferson Lecture in Washington, D.C. He has lived and worked on his Kentucky farm all of his life. He learns from and writes of the land, and how it has so much to tell us. He, too, values the power of the small.
The big picture can overwhelm us -- where to begin, with so many huge problems? Start where you are. Do what you can. Learn from simplicity, from a moving stream, from a small tree.
I like what Berry wrote about organized religion. He is of the opinion that Jesus did not come to establish a new religion. He came to show where the divine has always and will always be -- in the streets, in the shepherds, in poor people, in the wind and the rain, indeed, in all of life.
It all speaks to those of us who are willing to be still and to listen -- to suspend our hope in the Big Revelation, a revelation we cover with gold and magnificence. It is not there. It is right at our feet, within our reach.
The Big is beyond our grasp. I think it is meant to be that way. So we chase after it. But the small is within reach. We can hold many gifts that are small. We can hold a child. We can hold a book. We can hold a flower, or a sea shell.
We can share these beautiful gifts of life. We chase the Big and the intent is to keep it -- if we can get it. It is a solitary chase, which leaves the poor and the little behind.
But the poor and the little are the living soils through which salvation grows. God came to them and grew among them because we could not find salvation amongst ourselves. We just do not possess that kind of a resource, the Big Key to everything and every door.
But God knows our weakness and He became it. He is nestled among the low and the easily reachable. He will someday rise through them and confound those who sought lasting wonders in the Big.
God works best right where we are "at." And if we do not trust Him to be here within our modest little midst, we won't find him in our Big Dreams. He is not the stuff of dreams. He is everyday life, as real and as close as the air we breathe and the gardens through which we walk.
Well, here I am, in this monastery that may be too big for our dwindling numbers. More numbers, more vocations, do not to me seem to be a desirable solution. Packing the house is not of any interest to me. Maybe I should be true to what I instinctively feel within my myself. I will follow my reverence for the small.
I like a small cafe. I like low tides. I like side streets. I like small gatherings. I like little shops. I like simple celebrations. I like little gifts that come as surprises.
I like the hope that what is real and important comes to us all in the smallest of packages. Yes, grace, the very life of God, is blooming in every small patch of garden, every human heart, every desire that moves us to cherish the littlest and most vulnerable things of life.
God is tender. And he made us that way. Big things of any variety ignore and often crush what is useless to them. Little things and little people tend to get in the way of the Big. But little things and little people are the Way.
Father James Stephen (Jeff) Behrens, O.C.S.O., serves at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Ga. Highway 212 S.W., Conyers. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.