In his book, Tremendous Trifles, G. K Chesterton tells of two boys playing in the front garden of their tiny home in England. The garden was about the same size as a dining table. It consisted of four narrow strips of gravel and a square of turf with an old tree stump in the middle. Along the front edge of this garden was a row of fiery-red flowers.
One morning a funny little man leans over the gate where the two boys—let’s call them Peter and Paul—are playing. As is the way with all funny little men of this kind, he offered Peter and Paul a wish.
Paul spoke first. He said he had always wished to be a giant so that he might stride across continents and visit Niagra Falls or the Himalayas in an after-dinner stroll.
The man waved a hand and Paul suddenly shot up.
His home now looked like a tiny doll’s house at his colossal feet. With his head above the clouds, he ambled down the road. When he found Niagara Falls he was rather disappointed. To him, it was little more than the dripping of a bathroom tap.
Walking across a prairie or two he next found himself looking down on the Himalayas. They were nothing like he had read or seen in pictures, but rather small and silly looking.
He wandered around the world for several minutes trying to find something magnificent. But, finding everything small and uninteresting, he grew bored and so laid down along five or six prairies and fell asleep.
Unfortunately, his head rested just outside the hut of a woodsman who happened to come out at that moment with an axe in one hand and a book of neo-catholic philosophy in the other.
He looked at the book, and then up at the sleeping giant, and then at the book again. In the book, he read, “The evil of pride consists in being out of proportion to the universe.”
So, putting down his book he took his axe and, working eight hours a day for about a week, cut off the giants’ head; and there was an end to him.
Peter, oddly enough, made exactly the opposite wish.
He had always fancied the life of a pigmy about half an inch high. A wave of the hand from our funny little man at the garden gate and suddenly, Peter found himself in the midst of an immense forest of grass that reached up to the sky. In the middle of this new world stood a mountain of such imposing height and such impossible romantic beauty he could not see, much less reach, the top of it.
Far away in the distance, Peter could see the line of another forest, taller than the green jungle he currently stood in and blazing in the fiery colour of a thousand terrifying sunsets.
He set out toward those sun-drenched fields and has not come to the end of them yet.
There is something within each of us that thinks contentment, joy and gladness are to be had, not in the bigness of the things around us, but in being big ourselves.
We travel the earth, longing to be someone, but wind up being no one in particular. We want to be at home everywhere and wind up being at home nowhere.
Into such a world Jesus came and made Himself small for our sakes. He endured as a man and for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross of men.
You have to be small to appreciate glory. You have to become less so that what is lacking might fill your eyes with what is great and glorious. And so, as John the Baptist said, “He must increase and I must decrease.”
Proud men will have none of this, and so wind up with none of anything. But a wise man rejoices in humility; rejoices in being of no great account in the eyes of men. He doesn’t need to walk up hill and down dover to be amazed, stunned and exultant in glory.
He simply looks at those around him. He looks at the faces of those made in God’s image. He sees the heartache, the joy and the tears. He sees the sunsets, the handmade daisies and the little children and he rejoices at the greatness of God.
If we do not see glory perhaps it’s because we have grown too big for our own human boots. If we do not see Christ and rejoice, perhaps it’s because our own pride and quest for bigness have blurred our vision.
Our mission in life is not to become something great. It is always to rejoice and exult in something greater than ourselves.
God calls us to be less, that Christ might become more. God summons us to be silent, that we might hear Christ speak. And God calls us to let our egos be small that our contentment in Jesus might be great.