“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”
“…Does anyone dare despise this day of small beginnings? They’ll change their tune when they see Zerubbabel setting the last stone in place!” ~ Zechariah 4:10
“It’s said that, by the time a child is 7, they have already formed their inner identity… A person grows most in their life from birth to age 5… So many important things happen in the beginning, in what seems to be smallness. And it’s vital that attention is paid and time is taken to make sure growth happens at a steady, maintainable, strengthening pace. Character, strength, knowledge, wisdom are formed along the journey… you don’t receive them as a ‘first place’ prize. They are learnt and ingrained into us from the days we begin… The days where our dreams seem so far away… The days where we have no idea how we’re going to get there, but we learn to trust God and His plan and understand that there is honour in beginning something.” (source)
I have shared this before but I repeat myself every so often. I grew up a cross between a small town girl and a rural girl. On the rural side of affairs, Carrying a 25L bucket of water on my head from the river to my grandmother’s home was normal for me. Bathing in the river was too. Climbing up & eating fruit right out of wild trees? That’s me. Herding animals? But, of course. Growing & rearing our own food? I didn’t know anyone who didn’t. Cooking on the fire in a 3 legged pot? Obvious. Did I hate that last part…absolutely.
On the small town side of affairs was one of the things I despised the most. Growing our own corn and then harvesting it, drying it, kutsokonyora (is there even an English word for this??) and then putting it in sacks and pushing it kilometers to the nearest grinding mill to make our own corn meal. Lord I hated it! What teenage girl wouldn’t? It assassinated my “street cred” in my mind.
Between my corporate job and my small town beginnings were many other jobs: despite my law degree, I worked as a receptionist then an assistant librarian then a commercial law tutor then a few months’ foray into America saw me work as a grocery packer in Kroger Supermarket then waitressing fulltime. I celebrated that last job like I had been appointed as a CEO. I desperately needed the money. If you have never experienced it, let me tell you that the treatment you receive as one of the people who work in the service industry experience will humble even the most hardcore.
As a woman just into my thirties I am so grateful for and proud of those beginnings because every small piece played a part in who I have and am yet to become. They are why walking 5km to and 5km from work every day for my first couple of years of employment was a non-event that helped me save much-needed cash instead of using it on taxi or bus fare. It’s why I wasn’t afraid to say no to fancy things that I knew I couldn’t afford. It’s how I knew how to be ok with things that seemingly diminished my “street cred” even in the big city because I learned early in life that street cred doesn’t cook “pap” at my house. How I learnt to be unapologetic in the face of being laughed at for any of the above… and I have been. How I learnt to be ok with the slower speed of my journey. While I was waitressing, the majority of my classmates were already wearing suits to work. I don’t mean that I didn’t wish for more or cry sometimes at the “unfairness” of it all. I did because I am human and I feel.
Now, I understand fully that it’s those beginnings that keep me grounded today. I may not be where I plan to end up yet, but I have made decent headway and for that, I am deeply grateful. It is my journey, the good but especially the hard and ugly, that reminds me to see people. Really see them…all kinds of people, that reminds me to advocate for those trying their best to place the next piece of their life puzzle, that remind me never to get too big for my boots. Because when it’s all said and done, whether I am in a boardroom or a bachelor flat infested with roaches, paying to try out yoga or walking by necessity because I can’t afford even the cheapest means of travel, taking a minibus taxi/matatu/kombi or driving a car, shopping in Boxer Superstores or Woolworths supermarket, wearing China special or designer, I am just a small-town girl with a snorty laugh and weird sense of humor who begun from nothing. The girl whose dad acted like she didn’t exist but whose mother tried hard to give her every chance she could afford. The girl whose grandmother (my dad’s mother) heard that my mother was trying to send me to university outside the country and gave me the following unsolicited advice, “I don’t know why she [my mother] is trying to waste money sending you anywhere. Just stay home. Fatherless children never amount to much anyway.” I guess she didn’t see the irony but that’s not important. This speaks to a whole discussion of it’s own about how important it is to be careful and mindful of who you let speak into your life and what you allow yourself to absorb. Let’s finish this first.
The truth is humbling experiences are not limited to the beginning of the journey. They appear in the middle. They appear near the goal. They appear willy nilly because life is complex. They change shape and form but they appear. While it continues to grow, the character they began building in you early on will stop you from crumbling, despairing or giving up on yourself when those times come even if it hurts and makes you cry. That character will keep your lens clear and your feet grounded. Do not give up on your dreams. Instead, arm yourself with faith, a goal/dream, hard work, and flexibility in execution. Every part of the journey is worth so much more than we understand while we are going through it. As the Bible elaborates in that verse up there, in my understanding… do not despise the day of humble beginnings because even though noone sees the full picture at the beginning they will marvel when you place the last stone on your creation.