On Wednesday toward the end of the day, a regular customer came in to my restaurant and saw on the whiteboard that it was my last day of work. We started chatting and I shared more about my new position. She said she was really excited for me but also that she was going to miss me. I said goodbye to her, but then a few minutes later I returned after my coworker asked me to bring her food to her. When I came back, she was talking to my boss but told me to hang there for a sec in a very sincere way. She then looked at me intently and told me that what I was doing mattered. She said that simply smiling, looking people in the eye and remembering their names meant a lot. Though she may have sensed that it’s been hard for me working at the restaurant while not pursuing my career goals and using the degree I worked so hard to earn, she wanted me to know that my work does not go unnoticed and that I am a valuable. I was so touched and in that moment, what I had been trying to preach to myself every day to keep positive and persevere through this season, I finally believed on a heart level.
For most of my life, even before I became a Christian, one of the main pursuits I have had is to make a positive difference in this world. I know I am not alone. In fact, according to a new study done by The Society for Human Resource Management, “94 percent of millennials want to use their skills to benefit a cause.” I believe there is an innate desire in most or in all of us that longs for and wants to bring justice, reconciliation and peace into the very dark and broken parts of this world. After I became a Christian, these desires intensified, though they shifted a little bit in the direction and purpose. Before I’ll admit that some of these desires were a little selfish, in that sometimes I wanted to make a difference so I would feel good about myself, or that other people would applaud me for my achievements. When Christ came into my life, I started loving people in a more genuine way and had these desires because I wanted people to experience God’s love and the supernatural healing that He has so graciously given me. I am not perfect and I can slip back into my old self, but at the end of the day, God brings me back to the truth that I am here on earth to bring Him glory and share His love with every single person I meet.
What happens to a lot of us though, whether we are Christian or not, we tend to think that making a difference in the world has to be this “big thing.” We think that we have to start or work for a huge humanitarian organization and make huge life-changing measures that affect many. Or that we have to travel to impoverished countries and bring food, clean water and other necessities. As Christians, some of us, myself included, can believe that being a missionary is the greatest honor and brings God the most glory.
Are all of these professions and actions wonderful and needed? Yes, of course. Should we aim to do big things with our lives? Yes, I whole-heartedly agree. If you have a passion that you think will change the world and have an ability to carry it out, pursue it with everything you have! However, we may never get there, whether it’s lack time, opportunities, skills, resources, etc. Or for various reasons, we may have to wait months or years until we can start pursuing these dreams.
What I have learned in the past 6 or so months, is that we can’t remain in this waiting period. Like one of my favorite authors and public figures, Bob Goff, says so beautifully:
“Go change the world from where you are, while you’re moving toward where you wish you were”
We don’t have to be at the height of our career or be fulfilling our life-long dreams to be making a stamp on this world. I can display God’s love and make someone feel valued and known by simply, as this sweet customer reminded me, looking them in the eye, smiling and calling them by their name.
In this new position that I have, I will be helping with logistics and business development for a company that cleans huge databases. From the outside, doesn’t seem like the sexiest role. I am not curing cancer. I’m not alleviating poverty or fighting major human injustices. When I first started looking for positions, I don’t know how excited I would have been about this job or would have believed I could make a big difference in anybody’s life. But having the customer relationships that I had at my old position and being affirmed of the difference I was making, my mindset has shifted. A lot of my new position will be talking with customers about scheduling and other business details. Most likely, I am not going to be sharing the gospel or helping fix their major life problems. However, like at the restaurant, I can share God’s love with them by asking how they are doing and establishing a relationship with them, even if it remains surface level. When a customer was friendly and engaging with me at work, it made a huge difference in a space that at times could be soul-sucking. It reminded me that God was still present and providing me with brief moments of peace and joy. Now I am excited to continue to do that with customers who may be stressed or simply needing to hear an engaged, friendly voice of someone who cares. Even when I am tired or get to the point where I believe I need to be doing greater or things with my life to make a difference, I can be reminded and be confident that I have the ability to change the world from one phone conversation.
I also believe that if we strive to change the world when we are in the waiting, our ambitions will have a greater chance at being fulfilled and will have a more lasting impact when we develop a heart of loving all the people around us, even in simple ways. The Bible says that to grow in Christlike love, we must start as infants. For example, both Paul and Peter share how we must crave and drink spiritual milk before we can grow up into salvation and receive solid food (1 Cor 3:2; 1 Pet 2:2). Even Jesus had to grow up and learn and be strengthened by his Father for a whole 30 years before he began his public ministry. Our capacity to give out love is a process. Generally it does not spike out of nowhere. It takes a bunch of steps. It will take many fails and bumpy turns as we navigate how to receive God’s love and extend it to others. I can fully attest to this, and am so thankful for the grace and help that people have given me over the years, as well as God’s constant affirmation of my incredible worth through the ups and downs. But if we are faithful, God will slowly transform our hearts.
With that, I want to emphasize that fully believe that the major problems of today can only be solved with God’s supernatural power and the fiery love of Christ flowing through our hearts. Only God can bring true, lasting reconciliation for all the systemic issues of today because it is Christ who came down from heaven to this broken world and reconciled the world to himself (2 Cor 5:18-19). Only the spirit of God is capable of defeating every kind of darkness. Only God has the power to defeat death. And that same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is living inside every single person who has said yes to Jesus (Rom 8:11).
James tells us that the tongue is a “fire” and exclaims “how great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire” (James 3:5,6). Wednesday reminded me of this, and also when I entered into a Christian community for the first time. I was in the car one day with a new friend who was asking so many questions about my life. She was completely focused on me and never turned the conversation back to herself. I was awestruck and honestly a little confused why she wanted to get to know me with so much pure intention. I don’t know how much she knew in those moments how big of an impact she was making. But it was then and other similar interactions with this Christian community which ultimately helped me believe that God was real and lead me to him and set me on an incredible path to feeling more loved than I could I could ever imagine.
Friends, I don’t think we will ever be able to comprehend how much our words and actions matter. So please, I urge you, never, ever believe the lie that you can’t make a big difference wherever you are. I can honestly say that my life has been changed in some of the most significant ways by simple gestures and affirmations of people reminding me of my worth. So as you go about your seemingly uneventful or normal day, I encourage you to be present and love people, believing that even simple actions could move mountains. You have no idea how the dominos could fall and what God will make out of your efforts, whether big or small. You can be a part of God’s redemptive plan right where you are. Don’t waste any time. Go and change the world!