• Julianne Clayton

Small Things, Deep Roots

“I’m just an administrative assistant at a local church.”

That used to be my answer whenever someone asked me what I do. For the longest time, I didn’t see anything wrong with that answer. After all, it was factual.

I spend my days at a desk, answering phones, sending emails, making copies. I maintain the church database, distribute the mail, and provide support to whomever might walk through the office door or sneak their way into my inbox. There is rarely a dull moment and I stay very busy, but sometimes my tasks seem, well, small.

I grew up under the impression that in order to be faithful, I needed to do something big and extraordinary with my life - move to a foreign country, compose the next big worship song, start a movement, write a best-seller, find a cure. The faithful were on stages, under spotlights, going viral. Living my best life for God meant I needed to measure up on a larger-than-life scale. That’s what I needed to pursue and work toward.

So being an administrative assistant didn't really seem like a step in the right direction. In fact, I often saw it as a setback. It certainly wasn’t “the dream.” But God has been using my time in this particular position to work on changing my heart, my perspective, and my definition of a faithful life.

A few years ago, my community sat in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. While our city didn’t take the biggest hit, we took a hit nonetheless, and the most significant damage for us was caused by fallen trees. What’s interesting is that many of the trees that fell appeared to be big, tall, strong and sturdy before the storm. But a tree’s strength doesn't lie in what we see. A tree’s strength is determined by what’s below the surface, by the strength of its root system.

Some trees have very shallow, weak roots. A significant amount of rain or wind (i.e. a hurricane) will push them right over. However, a tree with a deep, resilient root system can withstand even the strongest combination of wind and rain. I see proof of this in the three well-rooted trees still standing in our front yard after the storm. The roots matter. And their strength develops in small, subtle stages.

I like to think of my job description as contributing to the church’s root system. The work that happens in a church office on Thursday might not be evident to most on Sunday, but it is important work nonetheless. The way I choose to talk to someone over the phone might not be heard around the world, but it certainly influences the individual on the other end of the line. These mundane tasks might not seem like much, but I’ve learned that they truly make a difference.

God is continually reminding me that what happens below the surface, in the often unseen or under-appreciated, matters. I’m learning that the Kingdom of God is often found in the small and unnoticed - in a mustard seed, a buried treasure, or a color copy. And maybe a faithful life is a regular, ordinary, well-rooted one. I’m finding that some of God’s most important work takes place behind-the-scenes and in the day-to-day routine. And that is good news for someone like me, who can sometimes view her work as less than.

In the movie Finding Neverland, there is a scene where Johnny Depp’s character discusses the word, “just.” He calls it a “horrible candle-snuffing word.” And I have to agree. When I use “just” to describe certain parts of my life - it’s just an email, just a database update, just sorting the mail - I downplay the Kingdom-sized work God can do through the tiniest of tasks. And I disqualify a life that is faithful even in the small, even in the seemingly insignificant, even when nobody is watching. It’s a small word that can make a big difference.

Now, when someone asks me what I do, my answer is a bit different:

“I am an administrative assistant at a local church.”

No qualifier is needed. It’s a reminder that small, ordinary things can make a big impact when they are faithfully rooted in Christ.

In addition to working in a church office, Julianne hosts a weekly podcast and is studying for her M.A. in Christian Spiritual Formation and Leadership. To find out more, head to www.julianneelaineclayton.com.

Julianne's everyday discipleship story first appeared at dianagruver.com. Reposted with permission.

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