The logic and brain activity of kids simply intrigues me. I’m sure I was off the charts and odd very often, although I choose to remember how brilliant I always was instead. I got back after a week of being away from my five amazing kiddos to find myself engaged in random, funny, odd, and out-of-the-box conversations. Amongst all of them, there were two moments with my Levi (almost 6 now) that reminded me of the point of a chapter I recently read in a book on integrity and living in a way that stands out in this world that often struggles with it.
Somehow, we got to talking about how well (or not so well) they ate while we were gone. After insisting that a few pieces of spinach one time was enough, he said to me:
“You know daddy – If I get too big, I wonder if I’ll even notice tiny things like a little chocolate chip on the floor to eat. That would be sad. And then Cooper (our Boxer) would eat them – and chocolate kills dogs. So – I gotta stay a little smaller.”
In this particular chapter I was reading, the author writes about the need to see our place in this world (in our job, the company’s place in society, in marriage, as a family, etc.). We so often think nothing is bigger or more important than us (although we’d never say that – we often act that way). We need to see that there are things in life and in society that transcend who we are and what we are doing, and we need to learn to yield to these things. And the reality is – if we think more highly of ourselves and our situations than some of the things in life that are really larger (the more important things), we will crash. It’ll break us – and not in the way that brokenness is good. The wake we will leave behind us will be a mess for us, and a mess we splash onto others!
The Least of All…
One of the key things in life we all need to really get is that we can never really be big – we can only crash up against it as we fight to create our own “bigness” or humble ourselves, become small (we are small, so “becoming” is simply agreeing with it), and join in with that which is big.
In the business world, it’s about not cutting corners, not cheating customers, not bilking people, treating employees like they are the family you love, not simply caring about the community, but creating for the community. At home, it’s a dad giving up a man cave for the kids to have a play room, a mom sticking with those shoes another year so the kids’ shoes can look great, a couple saying let’s get a used minivan and take the kids to Disney World or for a week at the beach instead of a new Yukon. For our careers, sometimes it’s saying that you will turn down that promotion to stay where you are because you’re needed here (wherever “here” is) or because God is doing something in and through you here.
The bottom line in this: what we value is what we put at the top of our “to do” list!
If a company values profits at any cost, corners get cut. In the worst stories, you see Chernobyl or the real estate mess in California years ago or Bernie Madoff and his investment scandals. If the company values its employees, the world around it, and customers, its behavior is guided by integrity and that’s courageous. You see how Tylenol handled that awful scare years ago and took no risks on people’s lives. Even in little things that speak volumes, you can see it – like how much a great band like U2 cares for its fans when it gave away its recent album for free in iTunes (instead of asking $11.99 per download).
If a husband values self most of all, when things get tough, he will look for something else at the expense of his wife and family. When he values his family and his marriage, he chooses faithfulness and walking through the tough things to preserve family.
It’s simply not about ourselves – there’s so much more. We have to yield to the things that are bigger, the things that transcend us and our own lives. For us as followers of Jesus, we play but a bit part in the grand story that’s always been about and will always be about Jesus. Often, we forget that – we think the story is about us, or we might say it’s about Him, but during this super important 75 year scene, we are the story! We think we’re like those famous stars that had one small scene and stole the show. BUT WE’RE NOT. We literally have a split second part that isn’t remembered because it’s Jesus’ show. I mean – we certainly matter and God loves us dearly, but when we live in a way that sings with the greatest Willie Nelson voice “I Was Always On My Mind”, there are consequences and the wake we leave behind damages. When we live to value others, give up things for ourselves, and prefer others as more important, we actually get more!
…Knows It’s About What’s the Greatest
The truly “biggest” people are the ones who haven’t sought greatness or taken the path so many say is the norm, but they see and know their place in it all and greatly serve others, the community, live out values, and have a mission that is bigger than self. And when this type of life is lived out, that person – those people become big.
They become “big” because they’re the ones that receive grace from God Himself. They become “big” because in their smallness, they know their place and join in with what’s big (life with Jesus being the ultimate and the eternal “big”). They become “big” because others are blessed or cared for instead of them getting a temporary fix on feeling good.
Gonna Cost Ya
And here’s the thing with making choices that deny yourself for the sake of others – it costs you something. To value something is a start – the actual start of it all. The follow through is costly. Not negative costly, but it costs something. It’s the willingness to lose something that does matter to you for the sake of something bigger.
Jesus was the ultimate in all this – He gave up Heaven to live a human life on earth, and then gave up life to pay a debt owed for the sins of others. The Biggest of All even chose to be small (not really, but He chose to give up His life instead of demanding a throne on earth or something else people often choose). Jesus chose us and it was the most expensive cost ever! But look at the reward: the redemption of all things!
It’s a small thing in the history of time and even in the roughly 28 years we’ll have our kids at home, but a few years ago Sarah and I made a year long purposeful goal and plan to take the family to Disney World (from Alaska – not chump change mind you). I gave up a lot of my beloved Kaladi Brothers Coffee, even switching over from a latte to an Americano when I went to the café. I know – you’re amazed at how selfless I was, right? I’m okay – I survived. We cut here and there, figured it out, and made plans to spend 8 glorious days in Orlando: 2 days at Disney world, 1 day at Epcot, 1 day at Disney Animal Kingdom, and four days at the pool. It was a memory that even a future brain injury probably couldn’t wipe out. It was epic. In the view of eternity and world changing – meh. But it was all about our littles – it was about Hadassah meeting every single Disney princess, putting on that Belle dress, and getting her hair done at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. It was about Space Mountain and the log ride with Zion. It was about Levi seeing dinosaurs and real live wild animals. And in the end, it was about Sarah and I seeing their eyes light up. I’m not sure who loved it more: them or us.
Bernie Madoff and his Ponzi Scheme cost people $65 billion. He was living large, knew what he doing, chose over and over again to keep the lie and fraud going, cared nothing for people and integrity. He loved himself. Now, he lives with possibly the worst business reputation in American history and is serving out a prison sentence of 150 years. He chose to be big: How’d that work out for him?
Tylenol dealt with a scare they were truly innocent of in the early 80s. They lost roughly $300 million in profits and they chose to do a recall that cost another $100 million. One year later, because of the decisions they made to care for people and live with integrity, they were almost back to the profits they had when it all started. They chose to see what was truly big (people and character) and be small: Worked out pretty nicely, huh?
As Dr. Cloud says in his book: “You win in the end by losing in the beginning, if you lose the to the more important things.”
Even my little Levi gets it in his own world. In talking about what he chooses to do in order to bless his sister, he told me this: “If I take time to do the things Sissy likes, I get to actually play with her longer AAAAAND we get to play Crocodile Hunter (long pause) sometimes.”
So Worth It!
On grand and not so grand scales, choosing to be small in order to be a part of the big is always worth it. An old friend once told me “Scott – character always shows itself over time. We just don’t know how long that time will take, so we choose to live well.”
It was worth it to Tylenol to choose integrity. It was worth it to Sarah and me to choose our kids’ joy and memory. For Levi, he plays Barbie Princess with Hadassah or pretends to be her puppy and sometimes she plays with him – but he keeps blessing her. And in the what really, REALLY matters: it was worth it to Jesus to choose to die that we might live. So Worth It.
One final “worth it” note: At Epcot, the food! Those Bavarian funnel cakes and the German sausage. Come on now!
Written by: Scott Frerking