Zerubbabel, a civic leader in Jerusalem, was responsible for finishing the work of rebuilding the temple after the return from exile. He was, however, troubled that the work of rebuilding the temple wasn’t moving on quickly enough. The work of rebuilding had stalled for about twenty years and he needed encouragement in order to carry on with the work. Based on a vision from God, Zechariah encourages Zerubbabel that it is not by might but rather by the spirit of God that he would be able to accomplish the task of completing the building of the temple.
For that reason, the prophet advises, “Do not despise these small beginnings, the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” In others words, never despise humble beginnings; it only takes an effort. This idea resonates with the popular cliché “A journey of a thousand steps begins with a step.” The point really is about the ability to embrace humble beginnings, and to realize that to be successful or to progress means to at least take that first step, that leap of faith into the future. Remember - even one step is progress!
Over the past eighteen or so years, many are the parents who have watched their children grow into young adults. From the early days of birth and daycare, from kindergarten to first grade, and then through middle and high school, you have been beside these children. Their greatest strength was in knowing that someone was always there, with them and for them. The challenges throughout have been many. The conversations have been countless. The car rides to different activities - sports, music, play dates, parties, and church - uncountable. In the next few days, they will take a step into a future space, one where mom and dad will not be around on a daily basis to help, guide, counsel, and support. These young adults will have to rely on all that they have learned from you and many others in order to be successful.
I have been wondering how it will feel like to drop my own daughter off at college. It is such a big deal for me because she is my first, and so this will be my first experience of enrolling a child in college. If you can relate, I’d be interested to know how you also felt dropping off your first child at theirs.
Like any parent, I am super proud of the young woman Havi has become, and I look forward to what the future holds for her and all the many other college freshmen and women. As parents, our desire is always to see our children succeed. Our hope is that they believe in small beginnings, that any accomplishment begins with a step, that progress is not about pace but a movement - and more importantly, that they have within themselves the kind of fire that will burn with a desire to be successful.
Here’s a story: a young man asked Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher, about the secret of success. Socrates told the young man to meet him near the river the next morning. They met, and Socrates then asked the young man to walk with him toward the water.
When the river rose up to their necks, Socrates took the young man by surprise and dunked him into the water. The man struggled to get out, but Socrates was strong and kept him underwater until he started turning blue.
The young man struggled hard and finally managed to get up. The first thing he did was to gasp and take a deep breath.
Socrates asked, “What did you want the most when you were under the water?”
The man replied, “Air.”
Socrates then said, “That’s the secret to success. When you want success as badly as you want air, you will get it. There is no other secret.”
The one exception that I take with this story is that it doesn’t help us answer the question of what to do with success - whatever that success may be. And so as I begin to reflect on my journey with my daughter to her school, I will have to help her to understand that she has to embrace humble beginnings, to use whatever success she achieves to do right by others, to nurture others, and to do what is basic and simple: to serve, to love, and to care.
Something tells me that we can also take that first step towards doing the simple and basic. Something tells me that you can count on the spirit of the Lord to help you accomplish the task - whatever the task may be.
And so my friends, believe in humble beginnings, for it only takes an effort.