For twelve years I was part of a team of Christians that ran a family holiday program at the beach. The team became a family as we did life together, and we would share deeply with each other. One time, we were given the question: what has God been teaching you?
We discussed this in groups and I was with a lady named Ros.
‘Tina the Tree,’ she said. ‘That’s what I’ve been learning.’
Earlier in the week, Ros read us Tina the Tree.* The book begins with Tina sitting beside a river. Tina runs around trying to do all she can to help different animals: building a nest for a galah, catching flies for a spider, finding food for a koala, providing shade for a kangaroo. She gets so exhausted running around until one of the animals gives Tina some advice which went something like this, ‘Tina, the best way you can help us is if you stay beside the water and just be a tree.’
At the end of the book, the animals carry Tina back to the river where her roots grow deep into the water and all the animals enjoy what she has to offer: a hollow nest for the galah, branches for the spider, gum leaves for the koala, and shade for the kangaroo.
Ros said she was reminded of this story when she had a conversation with one of the mums who came to the program. Ros shared that she’d had a hard year and felt like she went into the holiday program with an empty tank and wasn’t able to give as much as she wanted to. The mum said to her, ‘But remember the woman at the temple. She only gave two coins but it was everything.’
The woman at the temple was a lady recorded in the Bible. While people around her had lots of money and gave lots of money, she was poor and only had two coins. But she gave more than everyone else because what she gave was everything she had.
This spoke to Ros and helped her know that even though she felt like she wasn’t giving much, she was giving what she could, and it was everything. She didn’t need to rush around like Tina the Tree trying to do everything. Instead she could just be Ros and do what she could.
I love Ros’ story. I love how it weaves a book, a conversation, and her story together with the Bible, and brings out a helpful truth. This truth gave me a light-bulb moment. It made me see ‘not much’ efforts in a new way. It flipped my thinking from, ‘I’m not giving much’ to ‘Actually, I’m giving everything.’
This reassures me that I don’t have to try to do everything, meet every need, and please everyone. I can be like Tina, the woman at the temple, and Ros, and simply do what I can. Even if it isn’t much, it’s everything I have.
This insight came at the right time.
Heading into that particular year, I felt like I had nothing to give because I was exhausted from living a rushing-around-like-Tina life. So I stepped back from a lot of roles and focused on writing a book that I felt God told me to write. It felt like I wasn’t doing much which made me feel guilty, but Ros’ story showed me that I didn’t have to do everything to be giving everything. I poured out my heart and soul into writing the book and it was enough.
It might not look like I’m giving much, but I know I’m giving everything.
Usually I love setting goals for the year, but this year I’ve got a word.
It kept coming up through a phone conversation, a chat with a friend, a book, Bible verses, and even a dream.
My word is LIGHT.
This gives me the guiding questions:
How can I best bring light where I am?
What can I do that will maximise the light in me?
These questions were inspired by a story I read in Tim Costello’s Hope. Here is my retelling:
A father and son were walking in a dark cave when the father’s torch went out. They were separated and the son called out to his father for help because he couldn’t see where to go. His father told him to turn his headlamp on.
‘How much light is there?’ the father asked.
‘Only enough light for one step in front of me,’ said the son.
‘Take that step,’ said the father.
The son took the step.
‘How much light is there now?’ asked the father.
‘Only enough for one step.’
‘Take that step.’
This continued with the father guiding the son to keep taking the next step that was in front of him until he reached the safety of his father’s arms.
This story encourages me because it tells me I don’t need to know the grand plan with ten steps all laid out in front of me. I can simply take one step and trust that God will reveal the next step to me.
There is always enough light to take one step and he will always give light for the next step.
Also, this story encourages me because it tells me no matter what is going on, there is always light in us that we can shine.
For me, I’ve had to learn that one of the best ways I can shine light is by sharing my words and art. My light is a creative light. To embrace this I can’t compare myself to other people’s lights or be like them. Our lights will look different to each other. So instead of being a standard light bulb that fits in, I’m more of a chandelier living creatively.
One more thought:
I was struck by the fact that the first words God speaks in the Bible are ‘Let there be light.’
This tells me about who God is and what he is doing. He is all light and he is bringing light into all the dark places in the world.
Later in the Bible, we are called the ‘light of the world.’ I love that one of the ways God brings light into the dark places is through us.
Journal prompt: What kind of light are you? What light do you have to give?