“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed . . . Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants . . .” – Matthew 13:31-32
Many years ago I went through a brief spell of being between jobs. As it was the dead of winter at the time and with time on my hands I decided to use my short sabbatical to learn how to bake bread. With roots going back to ancient times, I figured, bread must be one of the original prepared foods and therefore not to be taken for granted. The basic recipe, so I discovered, is quite simple, requiring only a handful of commonly available ingredients, mostly flour. Except to prepare it is not so simple, unless one learns to master the art of adding the least of its ingredients – yeast – for it is this one tiny product in small measure that creates the magic in breadmaking, causing the dough to rise over twice its size. Leave it out, or mishandle it, and all other efforts go to waste.
“It’s the little things,” we used to say teasingly in our family. But Jesus wasn’t teasing. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed,” he explained, “which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.” Likewise, “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” In other words, in the perfect world – in the kingdom of heaven – it’s the little things.
Recently, I was working with a client who was completely overwhelmed by her workload. After listening for a while I finally asked her, “what little task can you give up or delegate to someone else, just one small thing, starting tomorrow?” That is, how can she break down that overwhelming workload into bite-sized pieces, into little things?
Her issue was no different ours – yours and mine. We all long for the big answers to the overwhelming issues we face. We look to our big leaders to make big decisions that solve our big problems, and the brilliant scientists to develop a big vaccine to put a stop to the horrid COVID-19 virus so life will get back to normal. And no doubt we desperately need that. But until then, it is the little things, a tiny mustard seed we can plant, or a small measure of yeast to make the bread rise. The vaccine may get us back to normal, but it’s the little things that move us toward what the kingdom of heaven is like.