I was 19 when I married Phil— a girl just emerging into womanhood. I hardly knew myself, let alone what I would do with my life. I thought what I wanted was to be a wife and mother and home manager/beautifier/creator. And I did. I still do.
As my children grew, however, my heart widened to want to do more. I had poured so much of myself into my family for so many years and learned so much about myself in the process. Now they were leaving to embrace their own lives and callings and I wanted to do the same.
Instead of aching at the loneliness of their empty places at the table I wanted to set more places. I wanted to make room to bring more people into my heart and life.
But, truth be told, I am a raging introvert and by the time all four of our children left home I needed unstructured hours to relish vast spaces of time alone. And that’s what I did. I puttered around the edges of those things I’d never had time to do. And the more I crossed off my To Do list for “when the children grow up”, the more I found myself disappointed by what I’d thought would be so satisfying.
I canned peaches. The idea of rows and rows of cans lining my pantry appealed to every part of me. But my peaches turned out just a little too soft and mushy instead of bright and crisp like my friend-the-expert-canner.
I burned fancy jams on the stove when my head wandered into lines of thought that sent my scurrying into my library to look something up or write something down.
My house refused to stay as clean as I’d thought it would. And when it was sparkling and pretty I just didn’t get the rush out of it that I’d thought I would. The dog still shed atrociously, the yard still grew weeds, the windows still suffered the onslaught of Oregon rain.
Soon my time filled with the miscellany of urgent must-do’s and ought-to-do’s that I hadn’t done while I was giving myself to the task of raising four children. And...
All those musts and oughts of grown up womanhood left me underwhelmed and unimpressed.
What was supposed to satisfy me didn’t.
That is when I ran smack into a truth I hadn’t seen, hadn’t known was meant for me too. I found it in the New Living Translation of Ephesians 2:10,
“For we are God’s masterpiece.
He has created us anew in Christ Jesus,
So we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
And it dawned on me that those “good things he planned for us long ago” are actual, real, tangible tasks!
Then I bumped into Mark 13v 34. Jesus is telling a story about His coming again. As He so often does, He puts His truths into a real-life context for us so it’s more than simply pie-in-the-sky theory. He’s painting a word picture about a man who goes away and…
"He leaves his servants in charge, each with his assigned task."
Hello! I have an assigned task?
Yes! Yes! Yes!
And so do you.
Long ago, God planned tasks for you to do, then He master-crafted you into just the right combination of gifts and personality and talent to do those assigned tasks. He gave you a story to live with room for dreams and risk and wild ideas about how your life might make a tangible difference in this world.
And now He is weaving your story— the good, the bad, and the ugly— into the your own coat of many colors as His empowering mantle enables you to do those things that only you can do.
That is your Big Thing. That task, those assignments that God gives you, and only you.
Have you discovered your Big Thing?
Because if you haven’t, you will flounder. You’ll be frustrated, sidetracked and unsatisfied with the daily doings of the stuff of life. Or you’ll be comparing yourself to all those other over-achievers who manage to don their superwoman costume before they’re even out of their twenties. And then you’ll feel inadequate and disappointed in the YOU you have become.
Do you know why your Big Thing matters?
Our Big Things are not first and foremost about us and our desires and gifts and opportunities, but about God’s story and the part we each get to play in it. If you miss your Big Thing by ignoring or being ignorant of His assignments for you, the whole Church suffers and so does this world. You are needed.
Do you know how to find your Big Thing?
It might not be something that will put your name in lights and have people begging for your autograph. It might not make you money. For my friend, Kathy, it means getting up the courage every week to visit the women in jail who have become her "girls". To pour the love of Jesus over them and into them, to make disciples in prison. Now she's got a whole list of us who pray for each of these women and for Kathy. Her Big Thing is a very big thing to those scared and scarred young women who hang on to her every word.
And if you’re a parent, your first and foremost Big Things have names. God’s astonishing first plan for evangelism is stated in Deuteronomy, chapter 6. Nothing could be a bigger thing than creating in your child a deep, authentic love for Jesus and training him to follow Him.
Is there any urgency about doing your Big Thing?
Yes, I do believe there is. Jesus said this:
All of us must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the One who sent Me,
because there is little time left before the night falls and all work comes to an end.
John 9v4 NLT
Do we get more than one Big Thing in this life?
Yes! Once upon a time my Big Thing was all about my kids. Then it was all about leading the Ministry to Women at our church as a means of helping my husband and loving our people. Then it was all about writing my story. And just as I see the completion of that, it is pouring myself into the Intentional Parenting ministry with my husband so we can come alongside a generation of parents who need help.
These Big Things have filled my days with meaning. When I remember that the Big Things are what matter more than all the pressing duties and deadlines, I live with a sense of accomplishment, of grateful rest. I am needed and I know it.
When you identify your Big Thing, you live every day with a sense that you were made for this!
And in case you’re wondering what a Big Thing looks like, I’ve lined up women to tell you about theirs in the coming months. Because it is my earnest prayer that each of you find your Big Thing and hold on for the ride of your life!
From my heart,
P.S. It would be so fun if you would write your Big Thing in the comments so we all get a glimpse of what God is doing with other women’s lives.
P.S.S. There is so much more to be said here. My son’s newest book, Garden City, will give you the full theological scope of these “assigned tasks”.