How seeing the world as a writer shapes meaning from small things
Written by Abby Ciona
How many stairs are in your house? What does paper smell like? What colour are your neighbour’s eyes?
If you don’t know the answer to these questions, you’re not alone. (I couldn’t tell you how many stairs are in my house, either.) Even if you happen to know the answers, you probably thought they weren’t very important things to know. We often don’t notice the things we’re used to, and those little details don’t seem very significant.
But what if one of those things changed? What if there were suddenly one hundred stairs in your house, or paper smelled like candy, or your neighbour’s eyes turned purple? Then we would probably notice them!
Many fiction stories are about discovering an extraordinary thing in the middle of the everyday, whether it’s finding a portal to another world in a wardrobe or meeting a forest animal that can talk. But stories can also be someone seeing ordinary things in a new way.
As a writer, wondering what if and spotting little details and stories helps me find inspiration. Writing is a way for me to bring these sometimes overlooked things to light. It’s a way to share different perspectives that others may not have noticed before. Many of the devotionals I write are inspired by little everyday events—like dog watching, baking, yard work, and editing my writing. But I looked at those events in a new way to find a lesson about faith and following Jesus.
An important part of creativity is noticing—noticing the colour of light, the wind murmuring across rippling waves, the feeling of sand under your toes. Noticing such details (no matter how insignificant they seem at first glance) leads us to wonder how all these things connect. A series of connections forms questions that guide us to discover answers in the context of a story.
A teacher once told me life can sometimes feel like a series of random events, but we begin to make sense of our lives by seeing them as part of a story, a bigger picture beyond ourselves. That story is the Bible, God’s true story for the entire world, the greatest story ever told.
God’s story began with Him making a good, beautiful world. He created us and welcomed us to be in a relationship with Him. But we rebelled against God’s perfect plan, bringing sin and death into the story. Yet God loves us so much that He put in place a rescue plan, a promise of a hero to save us from our sin and to make a way for us to come back to Him. After thousands and thousands of years of waiting, Jesus came. The Messiah for all people came in the most unexpected way. He was born in an unassuming town to ordinary people and placed in the lowliest of beds: a feeding trough for animals.
Fully God and fully human, Jesus lived a perfect life, but still we humans rejected Him. He died for our sins, and for a moment, it looked like He was defeated. But He rose again to life, defeating death and freeing us from our sin forever.
We continue to battle against sin and darkness today, but we know Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33). Hebrews 11 says faith is confidence in what we hope for and being sure of what we do not see. Though we don’t know what our story could hold, we have hope, no matter what comes next. Hope is knowing how the story ends. If we flip to the end of the Bible, we’re reminded God’s story ends with Jesus on the throne, victorious over sin and death, ruling over a new heaven and a new earth where His followers can be with Him forever.
But sometimes, our lives feel like mundane cycles of work, school, and endless housework. We speed through the day from one thing to the next in a dull blur. We can feel small and insignificant, like we’re living in a bubble. That’s why it’s important to remember we are part of a story greater than ourselves.
I’m filled with awe when I remember God has written all of us into His story and invited us into a relationship with Him. He has a purpose in all things big and small, even if we don’t understand why or how. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, we find an eternal perspective of God’s bigger story at work amid our struggles (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Whether we’re at school or work, having dinner with family, going for a walk with a friend, supporting a neighbour through a hard time, or talking to a stranger in a grocery store, we can do it all to the glory of God. Those things may seem unimportant, yet nothing we do for God is ever wasted (1 Corinthians 15:58). He uses the smallest things as part of His great story. He can weave together the seemingly unimportant details in our lives into something incredible.