God is in the Details

July 27, 2011 § 8 Comments

I don’t usually think of God as being much of a meddler.  You won’t find me blaming Him for my flat tire, or thanking Him for making Nordstrom have a sale.  I try not to get hung up on decisions because I’m waiting for a sign, and I try not to use the words “I feel called to” unless I really, really, really mean them.  I cringe when I hear someone say “Let me pray about it” when what they mean is “I really don’t want to.”  I tend to fall pretty hard on the side of personal responsibility, free will, and the likelyhood of God saying “Just make a choice!” if He decides to weigh in on a subject at all.

However.

I think we, and sometimes I, do God a disservice if we take this idea too far.  When we become too focused on our own responsibility, our independence, our attitude, we can lose the beauty that is God doing tiny things.  I think one of the things that makes God great, makes Him an artistic, attentive creator instead of a big has-been in the sky, is His love of nuance.

Think about the experts you know.  There are the musicians who can hear the tiniest change in pitch, the perfect countermelody or harmony, the minuscule addition or adjustment that will take a piece of music from beautiful to breath-taking.  There are master chefs who can balance dozens of subtle flavors and pair them, twin them, and group them to create things no one has ever tasted before.  There are artists who can paint with incredible detail, replicate colors and surfaces flawlessly, and make you believe that what you’re seeing is real, or slightly better than real.  The people who create passionately, who create because they love their creation, who create because they have a gift – those people are wildly in love with the details.  They revel in the details.  They delight in them.  They perfect them.

They’re human, these creators.  But they’re humans created in the image of God, a creator with unlimited potential, unlimited talent, unlimited love.  How likely is it, then, that God did a one time hit at creation, decided it was good enough, and left it to fend for itself?  If God the creator is anything at all like the creators He created, the symphony is never really finished, the recipe is never perfect, and the painting never quite done.  I have to believe that He’s constantly crafting tiny details.  I can imagine Him tending to the folding of flowers, orchestrating the dropping of a name, placing a phrase in just the right mouths to affect change.  I can imagine Him covering the prayerful, reshaping the broken, and conducting thunderstorms with passionate artistry.  I can image Him continuing to be present always, actively in this world He has created, simply because it is His nature.  I can image Him as a bit of a process guy, and less of a product guy.  I think He has a whole lot of holy fun.

But bad things happen, and good people suffer, and the world is dying, and why would an attentive God allow, or even cause that to happen?  I don’t know.  I don’t know His reasons, or how it all balances at the end of the day.  I think He’s been pretty clear that He doesn’t love to see us suffer, hates it, in fact.  Died to stop us from dying.  I don’t know where the line is drawn, but I think we miss something great when we answer our questions with “Well, God doesn’t work like that anymore, because if He did, prayer would always work, seas would part, etc. etc.”  I don’t think it’s an all or nothing situation.

I do think we know a few things for sure.  We know our God has promised He’ll hear us when we call.  We know we’ve been promised that He will be faithful to complete the good work He began.  And we know He has the heart of a creator.  If we don’t believe that God can work in small, daily ways, then we make Him smaller than I think He is.  We also miss out on the wonderful habit of looking for the tiny ways in which we’ve been loved, the details in the fabric of our personal creation story, the inside jokes, and the relational, personal, detail-oriented work of a Master.  We miss the bits that take this story from impressive to indescribable.  We miss the chance to say thank you, for that thing that made me laugh, for that opportunity, for that random act of love, and this life becomes a much lonelier story.

Today I’m looking for the little things that make my God so very big.  And rejoicing in knowing that they will be there, in abundance, to find.

love.

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§ 8 Responses to God is in the Details

  • Tom Serface says:

    I agree that it is unlikely that God did a “one time hit at creation” and then just left it. However, I also think he planned for us to work a lot of things out on our own (faith) and deal with the consequences of our actions (sin) through the tools he gave us. The answer to all the bad questions about why things happen lies somewhere between “I don’t know” and “We’ll find out someday”, but for now many of those things could be solved by caring people caring a whole awful lot more about others than they do themselves. It’s sometimes easier to say, “Why doesn’t God just …” rather than replacing that with “Why don’t we just …” I can see in my mind’s eye the image of a God up there coaxing us on saying, “Come on… come on… you can do it…”

    That said, there are obviously things beyond our power. Or are there? Jesus said, “The things I do you shall do also and even greater things.” Maybe we just haven’t figured out how. Maybe we need to spend less time tuning our music and more time tuning our spirits?

    Bad things happen, and we notice them… but so many more good things happen than bad.

  • But then again, how do we choose when it’s God’s hand in something, or just plain coincidence?

    As for your last statement, that varies from person to person, no? Some people have had more bad things happen to them than they deserve, while people like Zardari (president of Pakistan; read up on that asshole if you’re unaware of his awesomeness :p) have the heavens smiling down on them…

    I think it’s all a question of how we look at things. If we choose to look at God as a meddler, or if we choose to deny his everyday intervention and forget him.

    Makes one think, doesn’t it?

    Nice post. 🙂 Sorry for the rant. I’m just very bored. 🙂

    • It’s a great question, God’s hand or coincidence. Frankly, I’m not sure I’d say we could ever say for certain. I suspect we can choose what we want to believe on that one, as you stated later in your comment.

      My last statement wasn’t confined to individual lives, but more creation as a whole. There’s obviously not a balance of good things happening to people who do good things or bad things happening to people who do bad things happening consistently around here. (Yeah, he’s a real winner.) I’m not sure if I think that’s an example of God’s favor or lack there of, however. Nor do I think acknowledging beauty belittles the experience of those who are suffering.

      Strangely enough, I tend to be a kid who errs on the side of thinking God doesn’t meddle as often as we claim, not the other way around. I’m often on the cynical end of these conversations (“God said what to you? God made you lose your keys? Really?” etc.). I’m in the process of trying to balance my view of God’s intervention. This post is a reminder to myself to remember to give credit where (I believe) credit is due and not go about rendering God impotent and carrying the weight of the world on my own shoulders and all that jazz. 🙂 I could use more gratitude in my whiny little heart.

      Thank you for the comment! There is nothing I appreciate more than a good blog comment rant 🙂 You’ve made my day.

  • jazznjava says:

    I’m with you. I tend to be cynical and roll my eyes when people say “God said” or “God did” in the context of their daily life but occasionally find myself thanking Him for things He may well have had nothing to do with. He, in turn, probably rolls His eyes at me too. And that’s okay. But I do think that God meddles, just not in the ways we think. I look at quantum physics…things about the world that just don’t make sense scientifically…and that’s where I see God. Tweaking here and there, and maybe having a little fun with his creation.

    Because I’m not a person who thinks God speaks to me, I’m also not a person who blames God for bad things happening to me or in the world around me. I like this side of my cynicism.

    I find that usually I feel this makes me very unemotional in my faith and that suits me just fine. However I do have a harder time understanding others who have this more emotional approach to their faith and this has made it difficult to find home groups or even fellow Christians to talk with, because I just don’t see things the same way…though I really really try not to roll my eyes in front of them. It also means that quite often I get frustrated when our preacher speaks on and on about the emotions of faith rather than the facts of the Bible with practical application. And he does this a lot. I guess this is why I loved Bible college so much – it was all about the intellectual side of the Bible.

    I’m happy to know I’m not alone! Thank you for posting this today!
    ~

    • Oh man, my father would make you so happy! I was brought up with a heavy dose of quantum physics and the intellectual side of Christianity, for sure. Are you familiar with Agnes Sanford? We (my dad and I) were chatting about her pragmatic approach to prayer and faith today. I’m not sure I agree with her on all points, but she had some really fascinating, wise things to say.

      God doesn’t speak to me directly either. He does roll his eyes at me a lot, though… of that I’m pretty sure. 😉 I totally agree with the not blaming God for bad things point… such the upside of this particular cynicism.

      Thanks for the comment! I love that you’re playing along. You always have such fabulous things to say.

      love.

  • jazznjava says:

    One other thing. Regarding the balance of good vs. bad things happening to those who may or may not deserve them…it’s definitely a question that many people ask and it’s not something I think any of us really, truly understand. But…

    I know a gal who has been through more than anyone should have to. She’s been a strong Christian forever. But as a young girl she was repeatedly abused by her step father, and then within 10 years
    -her husband had an affair
    -her mother passed away
    -her fourth child was diagnosed with cancer at age 4
    -her husband (they reconciled) died suddenly at age 35
    -she remarried a few years later, and that husband (who had been a long time friend) and her step daughter both died of carbon monoxide poisoning 2 years after they were married

    But after all of that, she is the most positive person I’ve ever met. When she was younger she was very depressed. Depressed to the extent of physical illness. But as these things have happened to her, she’s been forced to either a) let the depression consume her or b) rise above it and be grateful for her kids and day-to-day blessings that come her way. She has chosen the latter and while I’m sure she still has bad days, they don’t define her. Her love for God, love for her kids and love for life is what defines her. As you said, “Today I’m looking for the little things that make my God so very big. And rejoicing in knowing that they will be there, in abundance, to find.”

    Sometimes I think that God allows these things to happen to good people because it shapes them into their full potential. When life goes along without hiccups, we become stale beings stuck in our routine. But when we’re faced with challenges, that’s when we find out what we’re really made of. Whether he meddles to make this happen or not, I honestly don’t know.

    As far as evil people having an easy time of it, I really don’t think God has anything to do with that. And they’ll have their day of judgment…and I don’t think they’ll fare very well.

  • Jeanne says:

    I think God is a God of details, but at times he’s waiting for us to ask Him to come into our lives in the small ways. I’m not saying you should ask him to make there be a sale at Nordstrom. Hells no. But I do think our lives are supposed to be a daily conversation between us and Him. And the little things are what make up the bigs things in our lives. I think He wants to be a part of everything we do. Not just the big events, but everything.

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