Both Pope Francis and the Prophet Isaiah share a common theme that we should enlarge the tents of our lives and work. “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.” (Isaiah 54:2)
Whether as individuals or as a group, we tend to get comfortable with familiar people, familiar friends, familiar routines, familiar work, and even familiar forms of outreach. Francis and Isaiah encourage us not to fall into the bed of comfort and familiarity, but rather to move the walls of our tents to include people who are not a part of our normal social patterns, people who may not necessarily share our background, beliefs and values.
I have been involved in various forms of Christian ministry for a good part of my adult life. Much of it has been peer related – young people when I was young; business people when I was in business; people who were part of my social patterns at the time.
Last year I started volunteering in a local jail ministry. It has challenged me. I am not comfortable and feel like I am out of my element. I don’t see much fruit so far, but I believe God wants me to continue. God calls us to faithfulness, often without the benefit of a report card or feedback. It is our presence and love that he wants regardless of what we perceive the outcome to be.
Enlarging our tents can also include how we relate to one another — family, friends and strangers. Pope Francis encouraged us to engage in “little gestures” of love. He cited examples for the family. “They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion,” he said. “Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early breakfast awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work…a blessing before we go to bed.” “Love is shown by little things,” said Francis.
On Christians in Commerce retreats when we pray with men to experience the Holy Spirit more fully in their lives, we often hear about their desire to love more. Loving more starts with “little gestures” of love. As the King said in the Parable of the Talents, “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” (Mt. 25:21)
Loving more starts with the little things every day. As loving in the little things becomes a habit, God increases our capacity to love and sacrifice in the larger things. A habit of love in the little things will open the door to people familiar and unfamiliar, and enlarge our tents.