Go Small: Because God Doesn't Care About Your Status, Size, or Success

Go Small: Because God Doesn't Care About Your Status, Size, or Success


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It is in the seemingly ordinary moments of life where God does his greatest work.

Go big or go home . . . so they say. But do you ever feel like no matter how big you go, you still haven’t gone big enough? Have you grown so frustrated with the pursuit of “go big” that “go home” is starting to look inviting?

Going big all the time is not only a recipe for burnout—it’s not the way God works in your life. It’s time to break free from “go big or go home.” It’s time to invest in stamina, to cultivate endurance, to recognize the miraculous world of the ordinary, little things.

Show the door to “go big or go home” thinking. Your ordinary life is miraculous. It’s time to go small—and keep on going.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400205325
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 08/05/2014
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Craig Gross founded Fireproof Ministries and XXXchurch.com and is the author of several books, including The Dirty Little Secret and Questions You Can't Ask Your Mama about Sex. He currently lives in Pasadena with his wife, Jeanette, and two kids, Nolan and Elise.

Read an Excerpt

Go Small

Because God Doesn't Care About Your Status, Size, or Success


Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2014 Craig William Gross a/k/a Craig Gross
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4002-0533-2



The Golden Gate Bridge, connecting the city of San Francisco with Marin County by spanning the Golden Gate Strait, is one of our world's most recognizable landmarks. Its red, wiry structure is a remarkable symbol of connectivity, of the feats that humans can achieve through collaboration and intelligence.

It's also the second-most popular destination in the world for people to kill themselves.

Roughly once every two weeks, a person caught in a dark web of isolation, depression, and hopelessness chooses to climb over the protective guardrails and jump, plummeting a total of 250 feet down, down, down into the cold waters of the strait. When they reach the bottom, they're traveling roughly seventy-five miles per hour. Most people die upon impact.

There was a suicide note collected a few years ago that was written by an anonymous person as they made their way to the Golden Gate Bridge. The writer remarked that they were walking to the bridge with the intent of ending their life; but one sentence of the note immediately leapt out at me.

"If one person smiles at me on the way," this person wrote, "I will not jump."

They jumped.

Suicide affects men and women of all ages and races, and since it is an ultimate choice, it is not something that anyone embarks upon lightly. The person who wrote this heartbreaking and tragic note hadn't decided on the spur of the moment that life was no longer worth living, and likely they had people in their world—family, friends, coworkers—who may have been able to provide the hope or welcoming arms that they were obviously missing. It's also worth remarking on the very real possibility that this person wouldn't have been able to recognize a hopeful smile if anyone had given them one.

But what if someone had?

What if, as this tormented person made their solemn way to the Golden Gate Bridge, some stranger had seen them—really seen them—and offered the smallest, simplest gift we can offer another human being?

Is it possible that something as simple as a smile can save a life?

* * *

In many ways this book is a reaction. To what, exactly? Partly, it's a reaction to the not-so-subtle and ultimately insidious message our culture seems to send us nonstop: "Go big or go home."

If you aren't going to swing for the fences, you might as well not even step up to the plate.

If you won't sign off on every last letter and punctuation mark of my political manifesto, then you aren't a true patriot.

If you aren't eating a gluten-free, vegan diet by now, then you might as well buy a lifetime supply of Chicken McNuggets, because you obviously hate your children.

Relax, people.

But before you nod your head knowingly, thinking you've already figured out where this book is going, let me add something more to the mix: this book is also a reaction to a subtle message we receive through the second half of the motto I quoted above—the "go home" part. There are many, many, many people who try to "go big" and don't make it happen, so they give up.

They go home.

They quit. They resign themselves to a desperate, futile life of punching a time clock at work before heading to a night in front of their TVs—or worse, their smartphones. They settle for putting their heads down and just getting by for the next few decades until their time on earth has passed and they fade away to join millions—billions—of quietly desperate souls who have gone before them.

Maybe you feel like that. Maybe you feel exhausted from doing nothing, having tried repeatedly to go big. Or maybe your pendulum has swung the other way and now you've basically given up on doing anything worthwhile and have gone home.

Maybe you feel a constant, ever-present sort of disappointment because no matter how big you go, no matter how radical you try to be in your endeavors, it's just never enough. Maybe you've done some really cool and huge things—things that make the world a better place or that look really great as bullet points in a fund-raising newsletter—but you still feel like you could be doing more.

Either way, wherever you are on the spectrum, I want to give you permission to breathe. To relax. To find contentment instead of comfort.

I want to show you the miraculous world of the ordinary. Of the little things.

Of the small.

One thing people in both Western and Eastern civilizations, from country to country all around the world, seem to love right now are superhero stories. Especially when it comes to movies. There's just something about heading to the movie theater or cranking up the Blu-ray player and watching men and women with special, unique abilities punch the stuffing out of one another and kick up a lot of dust and collateral damage in the process.

We love it. Batman, Iron Man, Thor, Superman, Spider-Man, Captain America ... the list goes on. The background narrative almost always seen in these films, the one we keep watching over and over, is that of an ordinary person rising above the rabble and doing something extraordinary—usually because they have to protect a person, town, country, or planet against some malevolent or maniacal evil force. Aliens or Nazis or some rich guy with a tragic backstory who is intent upon watching the world burn while cackling in the firelight.

But one consistent thing about most (if not all) superhero stories is the format, usually beginning with what is known in the storytelling business as an origin story. This is usually the first film in the new or "rebooted" franchise, when they start over with a new actor taking on the role of the superhero after the original actor got too old or started demanding too much money.

The origin story is the way we as viewers learn how our heroes became heroes in the first place, the origin of particular characters. How Peter Parker got bitten by a radioactive spider—or genetically modified spider, depending on the film (or comic book)—and how that changed him from the inside out. How Bruce Wayne became a vigilante who turned his childhood fear of bats into motivation to avenge his parents' murders. How Thor, uh, used a rainbow bridge to come to earth and became an Avenger ... Okay, maybe that's not the best example.

Anyway, one thing you may notice when watching these superhero origin stories is the formula. You have a few minutes at the beginning of the film when our not-yet-a-hero is some ordinary person, probably getting beat up or whatever. Then some accident happens in a lab or they discover they've been a mutant all along, and with that accident or discovery comes the realization that something fundamental has shifted: they're now an extraordinary being in an ordinary world.

And then they fight somebody or something, and then the movie's over.

But there is a crucial part of this superhero origin story that we seldom see play out in anything more than a scene or two: the training.

Usually superhero training is handled in what is known as a montage. You know what this is: some cool song plays on the soundtrack while we see our newly minted hero trying out this or that superpower. Peter Parker covers his room with spiderwebs. Bruce Wayne pummels things in the mountains of Nepal. Tony Stark fires up a blacksmithing bellows in prison and hammers stuff. The point is, the movie is telling us, "So, the hero is learning things, and we know it's boring so we're going to give you the idea that this is happening then quickly skip to the interesting part. Just hang with us and we'll get back to the explosions and punching soon, okay?"

I agree. The training is boring.

But also, the training is everything.

Nothing happens without the training. Without the training our hero is just a person with a bunch of cool powers he doesn't know how to harness. Without the training the world isn't saved and the bad guys aren't thwarted. Without the training the woman in peril isn't saved—and it's almost always a woman in peril (don't get me started on that).

Without the training we don't have a story—instead, we have a hero who gets squashed with hardly a thought on the villain's way to total victory.

So these filmmakers and storytellers include the training, but they skip past it as quickly as possible. And once you start to notice this training-skipping, you'll see it everywhere, and not just in superhero tales.

For example, it also happens in romantic comedies. The harried young career woman (really—are there that many women working for magazines or in advertising?) just can't seem to find the right man. Maybe she's too career-oriented or keeps dating doofuses, but she is always unlucky in love. Then she meets a handsome stranger in some cute, outofthe-blue way—they run into each other on the sidewalk and drop their groceries! they argue over a taxicab! they collide while ice-skating in rural Alaska!—and they wind up going on a date or something, and over the course of the film, they fall in love.

Except we don't see that part, right? We see a dating montage—again, up comes the jaunty pop song on the soundtrack, then we're treated to various shots of our star-crossed couple at the county fair eating cotton candy, or laughing and holding hands as they walk out of a movie, or contemplating a field of stars while sitting on a picnic blanket.

Romantic comedies love to tell the story of two people meeting and falling in love. But the actual falling-in-love part? That's boring. In real life, love is made up of a bunch of quiet moments, of small steps together that don't appear to cover much ground. Love is something we often don't even recognize until we've been in it for a while. The feeling of being in love is great! But the actual making of a long-term relationship? That's pretty ordinary and small. So let's just cover it in a montage.

Or take sports, for example, where we tend only to hear about training in the context of a big championship event like the Super Bowl or the Olympics. Professional athletes by and large have spent much of their lives training, training, training for that big moment. The wide receiver who drops a last-second touchdown pass in the Super Bowl has caught that same pass probably tens of thousands of times in practice and in all the games leading up to that moment—in Pop Warner football, in junior varsity, in high school, in college, in the Arena Football League, on the practice squad, and in every NFL game before then.

Athletes practice a lot, and when they're finished, they practice some more. They spend hours and hours of every day practicing—often to the detriment of any sort of a social life—until everything becomes rote. And even then, they keep practicing. It's all so very, very ordinary and small.

But it's necessary. In the big moments you as a fan are going to be grateful for the countless hours of work the offensive tackle put in on the practice field and in the film room, because he recognizes a specific defensive blitz package and is able to prevent the defense from getting to the quarterback, who is able to spot the open receiver and throw the winning touchdown pass.

Without training, without the hours and hours and hours of tumbling and turning cartwheels, the young gymnast can have a little trip-up in her Olympic free routine and go from a gold-medal performance to missing the podium entirely.

As a rule, people generally don't make movies about training. It isn't interesting from a storytelling perspective, and it won't sell millions of dollars' worth of tickets.

But without it nothing great happens.

In fact, it's during the training montage when the greatness is built. The big game or the climactic battle sequence or the twenty-fifth wedding anniversary simply reveals the greatness forged in those long, dreary, small, ordinary hours in between big moments.

The ordinary, small times mean something.

In some respects they mean everything.

It is in the seemingly ordinary moments of life when God does His greatest work.

And that's what this book is about.

* * *

I grew up in California, where you pretty much have to drive wherever you want to go, and since I still live here, I don't know a whole lot about mass transportation in more compact cities like New York City, Boston, or Chicago. But I do know about a man named Clive Jacobsen, and I also know a little bit about how he uses his time on a train that runs from his house in Sydney, Australia, to a town called Shellharbour.

Every Sunday Clive Jacobsen gets on the train with a leather duffel bag, finds a comfortable seat, and settles in for the four-hour journey. He isn't going to pass the time looking at the scenery out the window, though. Nor will he strike up any conversations with his fellow passengers, read the latest paperback thriller, or scroll through his Twitter feed on a smartphone.

Clive Jacobsen will unzip his duffel bag, get out a notepad and a pen, and start writing letters.

The letters he writes will eventually find their way to distant countries like Zambia, South Africa, or Thailand.

Clive Jacobsen is writing to international prisoners.


He writes to inmates because he was one once. Long ago. Back in the mid-1960s, Clive Jacobsen spent a small amount of time in jail for a relatively minor offense, but he's never forgotten the sense of isolation and abandonment he felt while he was there. So it seemed only natural that when a letter-writing organization contacted him in 2002 about sending letters to inmates abroad, he seized the opportunity right away.

The organization told him he could write to more than one inmate if he liked, so he decided to write to three. As his correspondence went on and he began to develop relationships—however distant—with these men, he began not only to see the massive need for this type of pen pal but also to find some personal fulfillment through it. So he upped it to four.

Then ten. Then twenty. Then a hundred.

At last count, Clive Jacobsen now maintains written correspondence with more than 550 prisoners abroad.

That is a lot of time on the train.

Clive not only sacrifices his time and invites the pain of inevitable hand cramps from handwriting all those letters; he also sacrifices his money. According to Clive, he can spend as much as $200 every month on postage alone, in addition to all the other supplies he uses to organize his correspondence.

This guy is an amazing example for all of us because he's just doing what God put in front of him. He saw an opportunity to reach out to some of the most marginalized and isolated people in the world and shine a light on them to let them know that no matter what they've done, Jesus still loves them and somebody sees them.

As far as the people Clive writes to, many of them were caught for minor offenses like stealing food, and a majority of the letters he writes are to men who were attempting to help their families in some way. They live in countries with extreme poverty and no opportunities to get out of it; many of them, in a fit of desperation, did something criminal in an effort to take care of their kids or wives.

They land in prison and are sentenced to lengthy stays, and their families—the very people they were trying to help—abandon them.

Clive Jacobsen understands this about them, and his heart goes out to them. In his words, "They can't undo the crime they've done ... but no one is beyond redemption."

And if you think what Clive Jacobsen is doing does nothing for him, then I would suggest you haven't thought through this very much. I would imagine that something as small and simple as writing letters to these inmates helps Clive Jacobsen understand his own need for redemption—and reinforces to him how much Jesus has done for him.

He isn't trying to change the world. He's just trying to bring a little peace into these men's lives, and in so doing he brings some peace into his own.

And he does it by thinking small.

Go big or go home? That's a false choice.

I encourage you to pull a Clive Jacobsen and go small.


Excerpted from Go Small by CRAIG GROSS, ADAM PALMER. Copyright © 2014 Craig William Gross a/k/a Craig Gross. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword xiii

Part 1 What Do I Mean By Small? 1

Chapter 1 Go Big or Go Home 3

Chapter 2 Right Heart, Wrong Place 15

Chapter 3 Define Extraordinary 27

Chapter 4 Who You Were Created to Be 41

Part 2 Why Do We Push Against the Small? 59

Chapter 5 Who Makes the Rules? 61

Chapter 6 Under Pressure 73

Chapter 7 "Look at Me!" 89

Chapter 8 The Acceptance Disconnect 99

Part 3 How to Go Small 113

Chapter 9 Get Slow 115

Chapter 10 Get Intentional 129

Chapter 11 Get Bigger… By Getting Smaller 153

Chapter 12 Get Humble 165

Chapter 13 Get Low 177

Chapter 14 A Wrench in the Works 191

Notes 229

About the Author 233

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