The Secret to Living Big in This Life

Live simply so others may simply live. {Ghandi}

We were all sitting around the dinner table the other night, sausage sandwiches and macaroni and cheese strewn about on mismatched plates.

"These new chairs are so comfortable!" my son exclaims.

He brought them in off the front porch that night and placed them neatly around the table, willingly and without complaint. We really needed more kitchen chairs, and these happened to be free.

After a painful series of "Doubles" addition YouTube videos finished, we talked about school and upcoming events, among other things. 

"These new chairs are awesome! They are soo comfortable!" my son exclaims, again.

I chuckle and, leaning over to my husband, whisper, "I love that he shares our low standards."

And we both laughed. 

The "new" chairs, comfortable as they may be, are clearly old church chairs of some kind. They were going to be thrown out but instead have a second chance at life in our home. Far from glamorous, they are functional and fill a void we were lacking. We may reupholster them, but part of me wonders if it's even worth it, because the kids are going to ruin them either way.

As I glance around the room, I note that our current kitchen table was also free, as was the one before it. The end tables and most of the furniture in our living room were given to us by one person or another, and so were most of the items in the bedrooms upstairs.

What dawned on me that night at the dinner table was kids don't care about that kind of stuff. They're just happy to have a seat to sit on, bonus points if it happens to be a comfortable one. Their small hearts don't naturally reside there--it's parents and the culture at large that feed them the myth that it should.

It starts at a young age with well-meaning parents who want to bless their children and give them the world. They unconsciously set the expectations. They groom their standard of "normal." It continues as families settle down in nice little suburban developments or country designer homes, watching every summer as Mr. Smith down the road gets a tractor upgrade or as Bob across the street sets up increasingly spectacular light displays with each passing Christmas. 

It's the unspoken competition for the fanciest parties, the most well-manicured yard, the highest achieving children. It's the road map for success on this side of things that tells school-aged children they must go to college, hop the escalator to the career fastback, buy a home and car tricked out with all the latest stuff, and retire at 50 in order to have a happy and successful life. 

But I wonder in this mad dash to have it all, to achieve the American Dream regardless of the cost, financial or otherwise--and there's always a cost--if we've missed the secret to living big in this life.

Living big outwardly--whether it be bigger houses, bigger vacations, bigger bank accounts, bigger storage units, bigger yachts--doesn't yeild a bigger heart. It doesn't yield a bigger attitude of gratitude or a bigger appreciation for the people in your life. The only thing it's probably guaranteed to yield is a bigger desire for more.

Because the secret to really living big, living Life that is Truly Lifeis actually living small.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? {Matthew 16:24-26}

What if, instead of pursuing bigger homes or flat screen tv's, we pursued bigger hearts?

What if, instead of striving for promotions, we sought to promote the needs of others above our own, consciously choosing to live small, below our means, in order to give the rest away?

What if we exchanged the hurry and stress of a full schedule of activities for simple, quality time with those we love? A game of catch in the backyard between a father and son instead of a season of half-hearted games under the glare of the sweltering sun? Dance parties in the kitchen instead of skipping family meals in order to make it to dance class several times a week? And, dare I say it, devotions around the dining room table as a family from time to time instead of dropping the children off to learn from someone else every Wednesday night?

What if we spent half as much time focusing inward on the health of the small, fist-sized organ in our chest as we do on the outward appearance of our person, home, career, and children?

Sometimes small really is big. Sometimes less really is more. Less to clean, less to manage. Less to fight over, less to lose. Less to organize, less to pay off. Less to heat, less to cool, less to maintain. Less to fuss about, less to control.

Less in some areas naturally leaves room for more in others. 

I guess the question to leave us with today would be, where is the extra room in your life?