My fundraising professor tells us that successful nonprofits succeed because of their attention to details. “The devil is in the details,” she says. I agree with her about success, and I understand her sentiment about the devil, but I can’t help thinking she has it flip-flopped.
The amount of detail you put into pieces of your life demonstrates how much you care. To quote Mumford & Sons–“where you invest your love, you invest your life.” When you care about a person, you know the small details of what makes them happy–their favorite movie, what they like to read, how they take their coffee, where they long to travel, the music they listen to. Paying attention to details takes effort. Some people have a knack for it, and others don’t. But I think it’s something we could all do well to cultivate.
My sister Lynne knows about details. She is one of the most generous souls I know and she is forever sending me gifts and cards to express her affection for me. Not only do her care packages contain objects of great usefulness (paper clips, lip balm, tape, tissues, occasionally socks), but she usually includes something edible (Starbucks coffee, jelly beans, candy corn), something old (used jewelry, clothes), and something fun (varies according to the season of the year). Everything she places inside that box was picked out with great care and thought because Lynne knows me and knows what I like. She sends me strange and funny cards that make me laugh, and sweet cards when I’m sad that express comfort.
My roommates also care about details. Kira and Sarah write notes to each other and to me when we’ve had hard days or weeks, need encouragement, or simply want to express their love and appreciation for the Wildwood rooms. We have a Wall of Truth Kira implemented because she knows we all need to be reminded about Jesus’ love for us and the promises He gives us. Sarah posts cards at the foot of her bed of who she is praying for. My roommates selflessly clean others messes without complaint, bring food to friends who’ve had a rough day, give up their time and attention to minister to and love the people around them.
I’m not detail oriented. I’m selfish. Horribly. I don’t notice things about others the way I should. It actually grieves me that I don’t care about the details, because I know my Father does. He knows all his children intimately, loves them outrageously, and places the pieces of their lives together so perfectly, timely, and gently that I ashamed I do not take such care of what He has given me to steward. I want to be like my Father. I want to take delight in the details of His creation. But I just…don’t.
I felt very humbled yesterday as I sat in my hallway with Kira sitting beside me. I was weeping because of my sin. I was weeping because of my selfishness and failures and inconsistencies and pride and my arrogant belief that I can be perfect without Jesus. I can’t. No one can. As Kira prayed over me and spoke truth over me of who my Savior is and what He has done and how He views me, I was reminded of C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and of how Eustace was turned into a dragon because of his greed:
One night a lion appeared in the woods and told Eustace to follow him. Eustace was ashamed to look into his eyes, and afraid of him–not because he was a lion who could eat him, but because Eustace was ashamed of his own dragon skin. Yet unable to resist his call, Eustace followed the lion until they got to a pool, cool and bubbling. Eustace thought that if he could but dip himself into the waters, the pain in his arm would cease (for he had a bracelet stuck very tight that dug unto his skin). “You must first undress,” the lion him. Eustace remembered that dragons are like snakes and can cast off their skin. So he dug deep (or so he thought), and removed a layer. It felt good to have the weight removed and he walked to the pool to step in. But as he looked down, he saw he was still a dragon, so he tried a second and a third time to remove it, yet he could not. Eustace felt great despair and hopelessness that he would never be able to remove the dragon skin from himself completely. But the lion approached him and said, “You must let me take it off.” Eustace was afraid when he saw the lion’s claws, but he was desperate, so he lay down and let the lion go to work. The lion dug so deep, Eustace could hardly stand it, but what caused him to bear it was the pleasure of the dragon’s filth falling away from him. The lion picked the boy up, tender though he was, and flung him into the pool where he was at once refreshed and healed. When he came up from the water, the lion dressed Eustace in the clothes he had prepared for him and Eustace returned to the camp, human again, without a trace of the dragon left.
So Jesus is with us. Our sin and filth goes so deep and we strive to cast it off in vain time and time again. But the only thing that can rid us of our sin permanently is if we let Jesus come in and cut down to our very hearts. It hurts. It’s awful. We know our sin and hate that He sees it too… AND YET… our sin is the very the thing He came to die for. He knew the depths. He knew the details. He knew how, why, where, when, and with whom we would sin. He knew full well what He was getting Himself into. He came anyway. And He clothes us with Himself. We have the radiance of Christ–His perfection, His holiness, His standing before God. And what is more glorious, He knows the details of who we are and where we fail, and He loves us anyway.
What? I don’t have to work and succeed and be perfect for Christ to love me? No! You never had to and you never will. There is no reason to live in guilt or condemnation or shame, because Christ has set us free from those things. I now live as a child of God–precious in His sight and the recipient of all manners of grace upon grace that covers every hideousness and deformity.
I’ve strayed a little off topic, I know. But love is written in the details of the Cross. Love is written in the details of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Love is written in the details of the history of the people of God. Love is written in the details of my life. I’m not perfect. I don’t have to be. God is revealing my sin? Good. It means He’s at work.