They’re almost too small to see, but it’s hard to imagine what we would do without them. This page contains dozens of them, but if I didn’t point them out you would never notice them. By the time you finish reading this sentence three of them already will have passed your eyes, but you weren’t aware of them. I’m talking about the tiny punctuation marks we call periods.
These little specks of printed ink play a vital role in written communication. Once in a while they flex their muscles and join together in ellipses . . . but most of the time periods stand alone. Though small and obscure, they dig in their tiny heels and bring our written thoughts to a full stop, ending sentences in their tracks. Periods allow us to abbreviate and write “Mr.” instead of “Mister,” “Dr.” instead of “Doctor,” and “St.” instead of “Saint.”
They show up in mathematics, too. It would be harder to talk about percentages without decimal points. Imagine how cumbersome it would be if instead of saying “4.3 per cent” the bank had to advertise mortgage rates by saying “four and three-tenths per cent.” Decimal points come in handy in athletics as well. Baseball hitters want their batting average to be above .300 and pitchers aim for an earned run average under 3.00. These humble dots squirm their way into economics and politics (“The unemployment rate dropped to 3.8 percent this year”). Periods even make their mark in chemistry, lending their name to the periodic table.
More Than a Speck
Do you ever feel like you are nothing more than a tiny speck on planet Earth? With over seven billion people sharing space on this globe, do our individual lives matter?
Only God knows the total significance of a solitary human life. What if a smart, stubborn man named Saul of Tarsus never existed? What if he never experienced a dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus? What if a relatively obscure Christ-follower named Ananias had refused to visit, teach, pray for, and baptize the intimidating enemy of the church who became the apostle Paul? His name Paulos in Greek meant “little.” He considered himself “the least of the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:9), and he endured a nagging “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7), but what would the world be like without him? Without “little” Paul, we would miss more than a dozen books of the New Testament. Without “small” Paul’s inspired pen we wouldn’t have the classic exposition of God’s grace in the book of Romans or the poetic description of love in First Corinthians 13.
There’s nothing small about his impact. A Pharisee well-schooled in the Hebrew Scriptures, he was at the same time a Greek-speaking Roman citizen uniquely equipped for missionary service. God transformed him from a cold-hearted opponent of the church to a zealous proponent who introduced the gospel to Western culture. The world would be a very different place if “small Paul” never lived.
Never underestimate what the Lord can do in your life. You’re not just a meaningless speck in the universe. Like Paul, you’re created in God’s image, redeemed by Christ’s blood, empowered by the Holy Spirit, equipped to be a vessel of grace. Your life has immeasurable value.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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