It was 1998 and as hot as ever. There is something microscopic about living under the midsummer sun on the plains of Kansas. It was hot and we loved it. Every day we were met with a new something to get into to get in trouble with.
At the time I was working at a Landscape startup with friends of mine. We were all 16-17 years old and were having the time of our lives and getting paid to do it. We had these lofty dreams of being able to drive tractors and haul big loads of whatever to wherever, but it never came. Probably because we were 16-17 year olds and shouldn’t have been trusted with anything!
The nursery where we worked was stocked with thousands of plants and trees that all needed water every day. Because of the very hot summer we were in, they all needed water multiple times every day.
Every day I hoped for something new.
It never came.
Every day was the same. Arrive at 7AM and water the plants.
Start over again.
That’s all we did.
Water the plants.
It was so very minimal, it became excruciating.
That is until one day the boss called and said, hey load up a bucket load of whatever and take it along with a something to this address and get it planted.
Never in all my dreams did I ever get so excited about a job with responsibility. I had to drive a company truck and he wanted me to load dirt with Bobcat. I had no idea how to drive a Bobcat, but I was never going to tell anyone that. I’d figure it out one way or the other because suddenly, the minimal I had mastered was paying off and I was trusted with greater responsibility.
From that point on, something began to change. I’d stay faithful with this job for several years before moving on to something else and at one point, the boss left me in charge of his operation while he was away a few days.
It leads me to the story of David and Goliath. Such an amazing Bible story and one so full of childhood aspirations. Every boy wants to be that hero even just for a moment, but before we see David launching stones at Giant’s foreheads, we see a boy who has mastered the minimal in his world–shepherding.
For every day he spent leading those few sheep along the hillside in search for more food, he was probably so tired of these seemingly meaningless moments. He had to entertain himself with whatever he could. Mastering he sling shot, playing a harp, writing, killing things, he did it all while he was alone watching sheep.
Eventually he became very apparent about the importance of mastering the minimal. For when he is finally confronted with this enormous beast, he’s got something big to fall back on.
You see, this isn’t his first enormous beast.
The writer of his story reminds us that when a lion or a bear would attack the flock, he would rip it apart. Clearly this happened multiple times and, for the life of him, David can’t just quite remember how many beasts and of which kind have attacked his precious flock.
Greatness comes in our lives. Sometimes larger than we ever would imagine but rarely when we plan for it to come. It comes through our willingness to master the minimal first and being faithful with the few so eventually we can be confident with the few more.
I am all for being aggressive and manhandling what I want to squeeze out of life. I don’t believe we are products by chance of our surrounding circumstance. I very much believe that there are times in life when we need to grab the bear by the throat and control life, but before that happens you must be willing to humbly master the minimal.
What’s your minimal story? How did you come to master it and where has it taken you since then?