God is in the details

Before leaving Cincinnati, Ohio to come to seminary at Virginia Theological Seminary I worked for a man named Charley.  Charley is a devout Christian.  He is a member of a Pentecostal church and as our Baptist brothers and sisters like to say, he “walks with the Word.”  Charley is also rather obsessed by details.  Details of contracts, of conversations, details of agreements made–nothing was too granular for Charley.  His favorite saying was, “The devil is in the details.”  Of course for him that meant that the devil was in all of the little things that we might overlook or that would be skimmed over.

I would argue that it is God who is in the details, not the devil.  God is in the details of our lives–in those small, simple moments of our lives that seem so inconsequential but that say a lot about our character and even our beliefs.

In April of my senior year of seminary there was one particularly rainy afternoon where I saw an example of God being in the details of a person’s life.  I noticed a staff member of the seminary walking along in the rain.  She was clearly in a hurry, her arms loaded with several file folders.  But, every so often as she walked along she would stop, bend over, pick something up and look like she was tossing an invisible something off to one side or the other.  As I got closer to her I realized what she was doing:  she was throwing earthworms, washed onto the sidewalk and stranded, back into the grass.  I stopped and watched.  She must have tossed over a dozen worms back to safety.  “I just felt sorry for the little guys,” she said.  She was the patron saint of earthworms.

Another small action that demonstrates, perhaps more publicly, this little bit of God in the details of our lives happens in another unlikely place:  the highway.  How many times have you let someone into the backed up lane in which you are traveling only to have no acknowledgment from the other driver?  No simple wave to say, “thank you.”  It takes less than a second, but it is a little detail that recognizes a kindness another has paid.  God is in the details of our actions and of our lives, my friends.

That small act of kindness and charity is an example of God being in the details of one’s life.  Seeing God in the details of one’s life or in a situation can be transformative.  It is relatively easy to pay attention to God’s presence in the big moments of our lives.  As Christians we need to also pay attention to God’s presence in the small, little moments of our day.  When we are on the lookout for those small moments we become more attuned to the simple fact that God is everywhere in our lives.  And that recognition can be life changing.

As we enter into the season of Lent, where the tradition holds that we give up something that we love, I might suggest taking on a small detail as a Lenten discipline.  Perhaps it is simply seeking out those minute God-moments that we might have otherwise overlooked.  Maybe it is taking on a discipline of giving a small “God-is-in-the-details” moment for another every day.  From small details grow big habits.  And big habits have the potential to inspire and change lives.

In Christ’s name,

About matthewhanisian

Associate Rector at St. Alban's Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C.
This entry was posted in The Rev. Matthew R. Hanisian and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to God is in the details

  1. Linda V says:

    Thank you, Matthew! I have experienced this when I was truly paying attention.

  2. Noell Sottile says:

    Consider this my acknowledgement wave of thanks for this great cup! Love it. –Noell

  3. Peter Spalding says:

    Beautiful Mathew! The beauty of God’s work is in the details. I feel He loves the little spider stuck in the bathtub, the worm on the path, and the pesky bee on the desert plate as much as he loves you and me. I have always made a point of rescuing his living works as often as I can, though mosquitoes, I must admit, do tend to get slapped. But In the Congo some 35 years ago an Anopholes mosquito gave me malaria. After suffering for a week and not feeling like a cigarette, I never smoked again. Thank God.

  4. Eileen Davis says:

    This is beautiful. It should be posted EVERWHERE! On buses, on facebook, everywhere. Many thanks for this thought today, Matthew.

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