Hair Conditioner and Moving Mountains

SOMEWHERE IN YOUR LIFE right now is a mountain. You have one—maybe more—and so do I. It’s part of our humanity—part of being alive on Planet Earth.

Some of those mountains are the direct result of our own faulty choices. Some appeared in our life simply because we live in a sinful world.


Yes. Mountains of debt. Mountains of deeply entrenched habit. Mountains of “excess avoirdupois” (one of many euphemisms for fat). Mountains that rise between us and those we love. Mountains that stand squarely between us and our dreams.


But didn’t Jesus Himself say, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” Matthew 17:20?

So why do we wake up each new day and find the mountains still there? Could it be that we’ve read Christ’s promise but misapplied it?

If you live long enough, you discover that just being a Christian doesn’t give you the magical power of looking at the mountain in your front yard, snapping your fingers while intoning the mustard-seed promise, and voilà—the mountain instantly disappears.

Those with the unrealistic expectation that the outcome of faith and prayer is unfailingly a miracle are doomed to be disappointed—sometimes to the point of total disillusionment about faith and Christianity. On this very point, some depart from the faith, to walk in it no more.

What, then, means the promise of Christ in Matthew?

The key is to understand that while God sometimes—for reasons we may not fully understand while here in this life—can perform outright, instantaneous miracles, that is not the way He usually works.

Instead, God’s usual way of working is to turbocharge the gift He has already given us—the vastly underestimated yet staggeringly potent power of choice.

The mountain can be removed. But not typically with one mighty macro-choice. No, the mountain yields to a thousand or ten or a hundred thousand daily micro-choices.

Long ago, I used to use a hair conditioner called “Small Miracle.” It’s the best one I ever found. Unfortunately, they stopped making it. I guess not enough others had my opinion of it. The way to move mountains is through a persistent, continuing series of “small miracles”—small, incremental, daily/hourly choices.

Getting down to the final stretch of life, I like to identify the “big” things I’ve learned. One of the biggest and most awesome is the stupendous power of steady, incremental choices.

You don’t choose to lose 5, 10, 50, or 100 pounds. You choose for this day—this meal—not to eat some things, to eat others, and to eat less in total. You choose to become more active. And you keep making these choices day after day after day.

You don’t choose to pay off all your debts in a week. You choose to chisel away at them one dollar, one small check, at a time.

You don’t typically get well because you put all your faith in instant healing. You recommit to following the laws of good health, and you take advantage of the wisdom and skill God has made available through healthcare professionals.

You don’t learn a language all at once. You don’t go to sleep one night with a spare tire and wake up with six-pack abs. You don’t magically produce the relationship of your dreams in five days.

Any bad mountain worth removing—or even a good mountain worth creating where none exists—requires steady, stubborn, persistent, repeated choices. Inch by inch. Slice by slice. Step by step. Hour by hour.

Faith as of a mustard seed? To me, this speaks less of faith in the instant or sudden disappearance of the bad or appearance of the good at one’s wish. Rather, it speaks of faith both in the possibility of a wonderful outcome through repeated good choices—and of God’s cooperation with us in strengthening our will (power of choice) in whatever way He may.

I look at some circumstances of my life and fervently, devoutly, with the greatest longing, wish for a Great Miracle—for instant, massive change.

But I’ve learned that like the determined tortoise, I too can arrive at the finish line of my goals by focusing my faith on the inevitability of my arrival—and by choosing to take the “next step” toward my goal.

Great Miracles will abound when Jesus returns: the resurrection, new bodies, immortality, eternity. Meanwhile, I’ll find great satisfaction and delight in the Small Miracles of incremental change that ultimately add up to a genuinely Great Miracle.


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