Why the Little Things Matter

The supposed "small" things that Ben does for me, more often than not, touch my heart much deeper than a beautiful, expensive bouquet of flowers, or an extravagant date. The gestures I know come not out of obligation or duty, because they come at unexpected times and in unexpected ways. He finds ways all the time to communicate a genuine desire to know me better and a delight in what he finds. The way he comes up behind me while I’m washing dishes and holds me close while my hands drip with sudsy water, folds the sheets back a particular way on the bed because he knows I like it that way, calls me on his way to work to tell me he misses me, or texts on his break to remind me he "loves me more" . . . all of it matters to this girl. Sometimes he stops at a gas station on the way home just to buy an 89 cent bag of Skittles because he knows I'll squeal and tear into the bag right before a wholesome supper, and sometimes he'll stop in the middle of his run to bring me back some wildflowers. He'll come back through the door with a twinkle in his eye, wrap me up in his arms and tell me I’m beautiful, and my heart will swell with gratitude, reveling in the privilege of being cherished by a man. My husband is steering our marriage by his little choices and I can not help but respond in kind. He is leading by example and I follow with all my heart.

A man made a comment once that moved into my heart and took residence instantly. I didn’t know who he was, and I don’t even remember his name or what he looks like, but he shared a truth that has been one of the most guiding factors in my life ever since.

He said, “When you turn the helm of a ship – even just an inch – in the end, it can land on a totally different island.”

Small choices steer us. Before we know it, a lackadaisical attitude at the wheel can cause us to be treading uncharted or dangerous waters. D.A. Carson said, 

People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.

Life is made of the small stuff. We all know that, but does the way we live match what we believe? If someone were to write down our theology based solely on the way we behaved, how similar would it sound to what we would write if given pen and paper? If we really believe God knows all things and sees all things, and that we will give account to Him for our every word and deed, would we change anything about what we watch or listen to, or do in private? Is our theology in word only? Or maybe it’s in word, and a little in behavior . . . when it’s convenient and we’re in the “mood“ to be godly.

Even if we are legitimately Christians, it is all too easy to be practicing atheists . . . saying we believe in the providence of God, and that He sends the rain and snow, but complaining when it comes; saying we believe that life will go well with us if we honor our parents, but sneaking behind their back because we sometimes think they’re overprotective or don’t understand us; saying we believe in a literal hell, and that all those who do not repent and put their trust in Jesus will burn there for eternity, but shirking at an opportunity to talk with someone about it when the Lord prompts us.

When I was around 10 years old, I was caught stealing, and upon being brought to Dad, I tearfully confessed all that I was caught doing, but then adamantly assured him that was all I had stolen and nothing more, and certainly, this was the only time.

He didn’t believe me. In fact he said, “I don’t know . . . if you’re a thief, you’re probably a liar, too.” He was right, and after a few sleepless nights, I returned to him and, in between sobs, confessed every single thing I had stolen. It felt incredibly liberating to remove all of my guilt. In fact, I was getting so miserable trying to live with it and sleep with it, that I was practically hoping someone would straight out ask me to confess, so I could get it off my chest. Even after things were made right, though, I felt crushed and broken. I felt I had lost the respect of my siblings and confidence of my parents. I had to build my reputation from the ground up, and I wondered how I had smothered my conscience and become so callous to have allowed such a terrible habit into my life.

Looking back, I recognize that I had veered my “ship” from the course just a little in the beginning: entertaining the thought of stealing — reasoning it would probably be okay, maybe I’d even pay for it later. Then I stole. A very small thing of course. No one would miss it, and it wasn’t that big of a deal. Right? Wrong. Somehow, stealing a second time felt a little easier . . . after all, I was already guilty, so why not do it again?  I convinced myself that it wasn’t wrong, and refused to think of it as sin, enjoying more than anything the adrenalin of pulling it off with no one knowing. One bad decision lead to another, and soon I had become so accustomed to it that I hardly recognized it as sin at all, and with a conscience so muddied, lying wasn’t hard either. “O, what a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive.” Thank the Lord, I was caught. Being caught can be our saving grace, when our hearts are too hardened to even believe we need help, much less pray for it.

As grievous as my sin was, what was the greater tragedy was my loss of fellowship with God before I confessed. Light cannot dwell with darkness. We dig a chasm when we disobey the Lord, and we sink with every thrust of the shovel. Sometimes, though, even after we confess our sin and the divide is filled again, we stand content on level ground, instead of climbing higher, crying out, “Nearer, still nearer, close to Thy heart! Draw me, my Savior—so precious thou art! Fold me, oh fold me, close to Thy breast. Shelter me safe in that “Haven of rest”; . . . Sin, with its follies, I gladly resign, All of its pleasures, pomp and its pride, Give me but Jesus, my Lord, crucified.”

Little decisions matter. Big time. They steer the whole ship. Let us pray, ". . . Nearer, still nearer, while life shall last. Till safe in glory my anchor is cast. . . .”

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