On day 2 of Willow Creek, one theme that stood out: Big change is accomplished by little things.
Dan and Chip Heath and Bill Hybels both talked about a series of little things. The Heaths recommended shrinking the change you want to see. If you can get it down to little things that are attainable, you can do it. And it’s amazing what those little things can add up to over time. They gave examples of people who changed counties, communities and countries by doing small things.
If you feel optimism versus being more and more discouraged, you’ve shrunk the change enough.
That paraphrase of what Dan said rings true for me in my experiences. Big change and big projects can sure lead to feeling overwhelmed. But when you work on the list of tasks you know you need to do today, after a year or two, you look back and you’ve accomplished something remarkable.
Hybels followed up with a reminder of the story of Naaman, where his entourage called him on his failure to obey Elisha. His paraphrase: “You’re a great man and would have done it if it was a great request. Do the little things he asked you to do.” It’s a great reminder of how God works, and our propensity for efficiency: one big thing to solve the world’s problems rather than faithfulness with smaller loads.
I see two issues. My dad used to watch my brother and me unloading groceries from the car, with a dozen bags hanging on our arms. He called it a “lazy man’s load.” “Why don’t you just take a bunch of smaller loads?” he’d ask. I still like lazy man’s loads.
I think there’s one deeper element to Hybels comments, though. I think we think of ourselves as “great men” and believe the lie that great men do great things. We want to do that great thing that gets noticed and puts us on the map. It’s the SportsCenter approach, where athletes try to throw in a few moves in a game so they get on ESPN’s highlight show that night.
But God cares more about faithfulness and fruitfulness than our pride. As Dave Gibbons reminded us yesterday, God’s metrics are different. He’s not all that concerned that our graphs always move “up and to the right.” He evaluates things differently, and he has a different definition of success.