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While planning a wedding, and consequently stressing over seemingly mindless details, people always say “don’t sweat the small stuff.” It is true that you have to pick your battles and ask questions such as “does it matter if the napkins are fuschia or magenta?” However, it does matter if the napkins are bright yellow when I specifically requested fuschia?* Not that I am being a Bridezilla, but I don’t want my wedding guests to experience eyesore and not enjoy the hard work I put into the decor (DIY bride here).
Therefore, I really dislike this platitude. I unabashedly sweat the small stuff. I hear this constantly, and it grates on my frikkin nerves. What gives you the right to determine whether my frustration is out of proportion to the problem at hand? When did caring about fine details become uncool? Details such as time, traffic, logistics, capacities, budgets, weather patterns, are those that people prefer to dismiss them because they are “boring”, but if ignored can cause mild aggravation, and possibly irreparable mistakes.
I can’t tell you how many times I have ruined someone’s happy-fun-time of scheduling too many activities in too short of time because I brought up concerns about the time constraints, or have been anxious when leaving for a flight because my ride decided: “Oh, 90 min is plenty of time to leave for the airport (which is across town) and get to your gate and board.” Is it possible? Yes…as long as you don’t hit traffic. But I know from experience that it is when you short-change yourself on time that you hit the 10 car pile-up or train delay.
Our culture presents the chill and laid-back person as the paragon of psychological well-being. People brag about their penchant for winging it, and embracing the thrill of being the last-minute hero. The last-minute hero is fodder for many a great movie, but sadly real life dishes out the crappy outcome more than we want or expect. The movie makes us feel good because it reflects our desire to forget about those pesky things that get in the way of our heart or vision. However, movies exist outside the confines of Murphy’s Law. In reality, most everyday victories — or horrible situations avoided — are due to consideration of seemingly small details. And God’s grace.
While society glorifies the last minute hero, those who bring up potential problems are perceived as ignorant buzzkills who fail to see the forest for the trees. In films, they are often presented as stiff bureaucrats that no one likes. However, sweating the small stuff is often a product of being able to see a situation, person, company, machine, etc. as a whole system. It involves analyzing and foreseeing interrelated connections within an environment. In other words, it is seeing the forest like an ecosystem. For example, if just one species dies or is threatened, it can affect other species that depend on it for survival.
Our lives, and the things that happen in it, are intricate and interconnected. If one part feels off, the system feels off. Seriously, if my life is not running along smoothly like clockwork, and if even a minor cog breaks, I just want to shut it all down until the error is fixed. For example, when I dropped my iPhone and the screen cracked, it disrupted my schedule, cost a lot of money, and caused major inconvenience. I could wait for hours at the busy Apple Store on a weekend (even with an appointment), or take time off work to get it fixed. Having the phone broken gave me a feeling of insecurity, causing me to wonder what else could break. But… it’s just a PHONE right?? I did not have to fix it, my phone still worked fine. But I did not like that nagging feeling and embarrassment of a cracked screen. I felt my shame and clumsiness everytime I checked my mail or Facebook on the go.
It is easier for some people to tough it out than for others, letting these kinds of niggling problems roll off their backs. Too often, we are told to ignore the alarms because they seem like petty issues that are not worth the emotional energy. Perhaps we are just being too sensitive, or that it’s not worth picking a fight over. Sometimes it’s not in the long run, but if you want to swing a few punches, that should be OK too.
Some Christians advocate that the little things do not matter. We should only focus our prayers and efforts on the big, profound things like starving kids in Africa or praising God for what He has done. That God’s Plan is bigger than your first-world problem. Or, we should just “give our problems to God” and just “feel washed over with His peace.” And if I don’t, I guess that means I am not a true Christian who is really filled with the Spirit because honestly, I don’t always feel better after praying. This platitude irritated me to no end because I used to think God did not care about my puny little prayers, but in looking closer, God does sweat the small stuff.
Luke 15:4-7, the parable of the lost sheep, describes this perfectly:
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
To God, sin is a defect in His creation. Since God is perfect, even the smallest of sins is an unsightly blemish. This is why He goes out of His way to seek repentance and restoration. These things are often a part of our prayers.
The world’s view states: “eff that sheep, we have 99 sheep already, it’s not worth it!” Yet God wants to restore us to Him, which is why He relentlessly pursues us, and won’t stop until He deems everything is neat and orderly in the proverbial sheep pen.
Luke 12:7 states: “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Surely if God cares about the hairs on our heads, imagine how even the most superficial prayer means to Him.
Everyday supplications are the little bricks that build a strong foundation…our relationship with God. Each prayer, from asking God for your football team to win to having compassion and deliverance for sex trafficking victims, is one brick, and each prayer builds on others to strengthen the connection we have to God. The more we get to know God, the more we gain insight into who who He is. He may not deliver us from crappy circumstances, though since He is merciful He is keen to do so. However, the goal is coming to repentance and closer to God. Therefore, each prayer is just one small part of a larger building, and if someone says that you should feel blissful, contented peace after every prayer then…I should feel blissful and contented after each workday. Because in this world full of distractions and hard hearts, prayer is frikkin WORK!
God has profound and mysterious dealings, but He is not so removed from us that he does not sweat many of the same details too. It is because God is profound that He can see the world on a macro-universe, massive scale level, as well as to the seemingly quantum level of each person’s hair. He came down to Earth as a man so he could experience what we experience (John 1:1; John 1:14).
For those of us like myself who are sensitive to our environments and find anomalies aggravating, I am thankful that God can relate to this. While we are not God and cannot see on the system-level God can, He has given us the gifts to be attuned to these details. Our prayers and relationship are important to God because He can pull us back when the details bog us down, or if we hyperfocus on an unhealthy level. We are human and it does happen. However, don’t let people bring you down by telling you not to “sweat the small stuff” or that you are acting un-Christian when these things are affecting you. In a world where so much is interconnected, the little things are important.