Welcome to Part 4 of Debby Bellingham's spiritual practice series. If you missed my introduction to her on Monday, find it here.
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St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as Godʼs little flower, was born in 1873. This nun’s autobiographical journal, The Story of a Soul, was written because the mother superior of her convent directed her to do so. It was published one year after her death at age 24 in 1897 and it became immediately popular and today still sells in the millions.
Therese of Liseux was sickly from an early age. She knew sheʼd never have health and energy to do great deeds and works of service for the Lord she loved. She wondered how she could show him how much she loved him. God gave her a way. It was in keeping with her humble spirit and within her capacity to accomplish.
“Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance, every word, and the doing of the least action for the sake of love.”
She took every chance given her to sacrifice, no matter how small it seemed. Especially if it could be done without anyone’s awareness, little deeds done in secret, known only to God.
She smiled at sisters she didn’t like, she ate everything without complaining, she kept quiet when her extroverted temperament urged her to speak up. Each of these self-denials she offered to Jesus as proof of her love. In the language of her time, she called these actions mortifications. She couldn’t do great deeds, but dying to her own inclinations was a deed she could do for love.
These sacrifices were the flowers she offered Jesus.
What can we learn from her example?
Generally, you and I live simple lives, hidden from the spotlight. Few of us will have the opportunity to make great sacrifices and do great deeds for the kingdom to prove our love for God. But because of our love, like Therese, we can scatter the flowers of little deeds, done often in secret for the delight and service of Jesus.
- Put money in an anotherʼs expired parking meter
- Pick up a piece of trash on the sidewalk
- Refrain from the habit of having the last word
- Pick up your husbandʼs dirty socks
- Sweep your neighborʼs sidewalk
- Change your babyʼs diapers for Jesusʼ sake
- Perform with diligence the boring routine of your day
- Bring a cup of coffee to your wife
- Listen (again) to your friendʼs complaints.
We can do little, secret acts to prove our love for Jesus. And we can do our everyday duties, not just because they have to be done, but do them for the sake of Jesus, as an offering to him.
“Lord Jesus, Iʼm making this bed for you.”
“Jesus, out of love for you, Iʼll empty the dishwasher.”
“Jesus, as I am grocery shopping today, may I see your face in the faces of the employees.”
“Iʼll make the fresh pot of coffee for your enjoyment, Jesus.”
You get the idea.
“The principle of sacrifice is that for loveʼs sake we choose to do or to suffer what apart from our love we should not choose to do or to suffer. It need not be painful. Indeed when the sacrifice is accepted with gratitude and the love which prompts it is returned, it is the most delightful thing in life.”
We may think, “big deal,” what difference will these little sacrifices, these little flowers we offer to the Lord, make?
Therese wondered that as well....
“But of what avail to thee, my Jesus, are my flowers and my songs? I know it well: this fragrant shower, these delicate petals of little price, these songs of love from a poor little heart like mine, will nevertheless be pleasing unto Thee. Trifles they are, but Thou wilt smile on them.”
Our loving God looks at our heart and knows the spirit with which we operate. When we live our lives as an offering to him we will bring him delight and joy, plus we will grow in obedience and freedom.
In closing, Iʼd like to read to you from my book The Mentored Life - a guide for living and loving like Jesus.
“You have joined the greatest cause, advancing the rule and reign of God in lives and in the earth. God asks you to live your everyday life, with your everyday requirements and rhythms, in the knowledge and realization that you are actually a citizen of heaven and a co-heir with Jesus. This kingdom perspective will transform your world. There are no longer any ordinary tasks, conversations or encounters. Every moment is an opportunity to live in the reality and the authority of God-with-you. As you walk through your day, you will bring the presence of God to everything you do and everyone you meet. Additionally, God will be present to you, hidden in every exchange. This is your eternal destiny. It begins now.”
Loving God, we are your people. You know our hearts. You know how much we love you and how busy we are. Holy Spirit, remind us that you have given us this life we live. It is your gift to us, and help us give it back to you in all the little ways we can. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen. Debby Bellingham, her husband Jack, and Molly the pug make their home in San Francisco, CA. She is a spiritual director, retreat leader, author, licensed psychotherapist and ordained clergy. She blogs at www.thementoredlife.com and her study guide and devotional The Mentored Life are available in hard copy or a kindle edition on Amazon. She enjoys (enjoys?) running, spending time with her grandkids and the adventure of doing home exchanges. She's currently living in NY State for a year and before that two years in Paris.