To follow God at all is to follow him in being small. God not only entered this world, but came diminished and in lowliness. This is the message of When God Becomes Small by Phil Needham (Abingdon Press, 2014). This is a book worthy of a much more developed review, one yet to come. For the purpose of this note, hear Phil Needham’s voice in two paragraphs near the end of his book:
The Old Testament, prophets, gospel of Jesus, and the New Testament writers all teach us to side with those who are treated as small. As they are the ones who are vulnerable and powerless, so we become vulnerable and powerless. We come out from behind the security of our office, the power of our position, the protectiveness of the institutions with which we are identified. We risk alienating associates, neighbors, and even family. We stand with those with whom Jesus stood. We become small.
This is not a call to large-scale social revolution, which often results in repression of a different sort. It is a call to personal courage, where we each refuse to keep our distance, refuse to overlook the overlooked, and refuse to justify our smug comfort. It is a call to claim the better part of who we are be getting beyond the fear that confines and weakens us. It is a call to shed the thick exterior of who we pretend to be and risk the compassionate center of who Jesus says, with him, we truly are.
At this time in our culture, we have exhausted ourselves with overload and overreach. No time in our history has America been more powerful, more self-entertained, and more pampered by technology, and immersed in self-indulgent leisure. The paradox is never have we felt more lonely, lost, and longing for something that’s missing. Rather than investing in large pursuits, and in bigger and better, greater and grander aspirations, it is time to become “big enough to become small.” It is time to come down to earth and pursue a deeper, closer, more intimate relationship with God and disenfranshied, marginalized and neglected others. It is time to become small by discovering the small in the countless small ways we value and connect with others. It is time to especially bridge the gap between the world and those who are ignored, marginalized, poor and mistreated. When we do so, we find the blessing of their presence where God is present. There we find ourselves in the presence of God with whom there is no better company.