From little things by Todd Harm
He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” Matthew 13: 31-32
I’ve always loved Jesus’s parables. From an early age, when I first heard them told in Sunday School, I marvelled at the ‘simplicity of their complexity’ and the layers upon layers of meaning I could discover upon teasing them out in my mind. The Parable of the Mustard Seed is the shortest of them all but, given its underlying message, how fitting is that?
I was reminded of the parable this week on the back of a conversation with my daughter, Sarah, who was raving about a book she was reading by American author, James Clear, called Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. One of the case studies in the book is the English cycling team who, in the past decade and a half, have gone from embarrassments to world beaters across several disciplines in the sport. How? Well, it turns out the appointment of a new Performance Director, David Brailsford, in 2003, was the turning point. His ‘marginal gains’ philosophy went something like this: “if you break down everything you can think of that goes into riding a bike, and improve each thing by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.” He became preoccupied with finding the athlete-specific seat position, bike helmet, body liniment, diet (etc.) that worked best for each and every one of his team members … and over time, each of those team members incrementally improved their performance, day by day, until collectively, over the past twenty years, they have swept all before them.
Like the mustard seed that can incrementally grown into a mighty tree … or a team of cyclists that can focus on the small things and end up achieving giddying heights of success … we can also grow bit by bit each day, nurtured by the love of our Creator, and strive to become the best we can be. Our congregation, too, made up as it is by a great many people who make small but ultimately significant contributions each day to the life of our Church, can also do extraordinary things moving forward. So, let’s continue to focus on the long game and the glorious potential within us all, rather than obsessing over our self-diagnosed shortcomings or failures!
Loving God, You know everything about me, and I can only begin to develop healthy new habits with Your help and strength. Please show me where to start. I ask You to direct my steps and uncover the things that I need to see about myself. Thank you so much for Your grace to change and make good choices for my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.