Small Footprint, Big Handprint: How to Live Simply and Love Extravagantly
A Book by Tri Robinson
What would you sacrifice to change the world? Your job? Your lifestyle? Your money?
We need a smaller footprint. The pursuit of the American dream has left most of us empty, stretched in nine different directions and self-absorbed. Aside from the occasional natural disaster, we’ve all but forgotten about the people around the world and down the street who need us and need us to live differently. We need to live more simply.
We want to make a bigger handprint. In a world crying out for help, we struggle to believe we can make a difference. But reformation starts with people who have one idea they believe can change their world and the power of God s love changes everything. We need to love more extravagantly.
The world is changing whether we like it or not. The question that begs to be answered is this: Will you sit by idly and watch it change for the worse or will you allow God to put you on the forefront of changing it for the better? Small Footprint, Big Handprint is your invitation to embark on a journey for the latter.
Small Footprint, Big Handprint excerpt:
Perhaps it was because I gave my life to Christ in the heat of the Jesus movement during the 1970s; or maybe it was because as a young Christian I sat under the teaching of men who had a radically different idea about how we were to live our lives as followers of Jesus; or quite possibly it was just the way God wired me from the beginning. Whatever the reason, I have never believed the Christian life was something to be lived out in passivity. I have always considered it to be a “verb,” something that was meant to show action as a state of being. My wife Nancy and I have always considered the life of faith to be a great adventure, and we have tried to live it and preach it accordingly for over 25 years.
Not long ago, I was having lunch at a favorite little Mexican restaurant here in Boise with a friend, Greg. Over the past seven years, Greg and his wife Sharon have taken a role of active leadership in our church. They both graduated from an intensive two-year seminary-level training program our church offers. Sharon has served faithfully for years as a youth leader, and Greg has a major leadership responsibility in the training program. Together, they have also overseen our marriage ministries in the church.
Greg and Sharon aren’t what you would call new kids on the block, or even those who are still considering what to do in the church. They are fully committed to the Christian life—in the saddle, tried and proven. Yet, lately Greg has been restless and unsettled; he has wanted to do more with his life. Through the world’s eyes Greg has it made. He has a wife that is willing to go to the ends of the earth with him. He has a teenage son who he loves very much. He has a successful career, holding a management position at a major computer corporation with a better-than-average salary package. He is very personable, sharp-looking and well-educated. In so many ways, Greg has it made. But that day as we ate lunch together, he talked about craving to do more with his life. Greg had tasted the Kingdom of God, participated in it, and wouldn’t settle for anything less.
Around the time I met with Greg I had been teaching a series called “The Advent-ure”, challenging people to live an authentic Christian life. “The Advent-ure” is a call to a unique and even peculiar lifestyle between the first and second advent of Jesus. It presents a challenge to live a life of radical faith. It illuminates the fact that God’s Kingdom has come to earth even as it is in heaven with the first coming of Jesus—and yet, it hasn’t come close to the fullness it will be in His second coming. It is the acknowledgement that we live in a very unique time in human history, a time that needs a people who are willing to use their faith to impact a world crying out for help. It is a time that requires a people who have accepted the Gospel and are willing to break status-quo living. Greg and Sharon Prosch took that challenge.
Greg was faced with the huge decision that every Christian who truly desires to break free into a life of effective ministry faces. He and Sharon, like so many others, were at a crossroad. Greg’s life had become too complex and encumbered to give him the freedom to do more than he was doing for Christ. He and Sharon owned a wonderful home and had a comfortable lifestyle. Unfortunately, some unwise financial choices and unexpected circumstances in life had them facing a huge debt load that was holding them temporarily captive. Because of this, the majority of Greg’s earning power went to cover that debt. I challenged Greg to sit down with Sharon and together develop a seven-year plan that would enable them to downsize their life so that they could upsize their effectiveness in the world they so desired to impact.
Complexity comes in many forms; it can be monetary as in Greg’s case, but it can also be emotional, spiritual or relational, all of which can be far more debilitating than having financial struggles. Material possessions, such as the expensive toys that once promised to enrich our lives, have a way of owning us with payments and often even stimulate guilt when they are taking up space in our closets, garages or driveways. Most Americans have too much stuff; stuff that often weighs them down and ultimately keeps them from a more simplified, freeing life.
Years ago as a young man I saw a sign at a trailhead that led into the back country of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the Inyokern National Forest. It read, “Leave only footprints—take only pictures.” This statement has been indelible on my mind through the years as I have hiked and horse-packed into the backcountry of the western states. It became vital to me from that day forward that I leave as little evidence as possible when I venture into the majestic mountains and wilderness or the pristine lakes and valleys. On the other hand I realized I could take with me something of great value. I could take with me the rich memories of being with family and friends in places yet unblemished by the lasting imprints of a developing society. This thought began to translate into other parts of my life. It became my goal to leave a smaller footprint with my life and a bigger handprint of God.
There has been much talk lately about a person’s “carbon footprint.” This refers to the lasting impact one person makes in their lifetime of living on planet Earth. It is determined by the fuels we burn, the non-renewable resources we consume and the pollution we produce. The size of your carbon footprint is dependent on things such as the size of vehicle you drive, the expanse and efficiency of the home you inhabit and the waste you left behind. The size of your carbon footprint will dictate the blessings or struggles for future generations because of your impact on the earth’s condition after your life has passed.
Because a small footprint—a life of simplicity—is a life that prioritizes, downsizes and slows its pace, it is a life that has the potential to accomplish much while still using less. It is a life that cares about humanity and the earth’s generations to come. Our desire should be to leave a small human footprint but a large and lasting handprint of God. The handprint we leave is an imprint on the hearts and memories of the people whose lives we touch.
A few months after our first meeting, Greg and I returned to the same hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant for a follow up. He shared with me the seven-year plan he and Sharon had developed to put them in a position of freedom. They decided together that they desired a life of united ministry without the restraints of debilitating debt. They wanted to make a difference in the world with the life they had been given. They set realistic goals, knowing that in order to achieve them they would have to make sacrifices and lifestyle changes. They would have to downsize their life so that they might upsize their effectiveness. They were obviously serious and committed to the ideal that many Christians are now beginning to share—one of leaving a smaller footprint so they might also leave a bigger handprint on the lives and world around them.