Don’t Neglect the Details
Happy Thanksgiving, my family!
I hope that you’re experiencing rest in the Lord this holiday.
Several years ago, I was serving on an elder team with a man twenty years my senior, whose name was also John. John was tall and thin, with coarse gray hair and a wide grin, and he worked as a certified public accountant, dealing specifically with fraud. While a pleasant and generous man (and also a good friend), John had little time for frivolous discussions, especially during meetings. In fact, he was so task-oriented that he made Steve Jobs seem aimless and scatterbrained.
Sometimes when I would tell a personal story in an elder meeting, John would chastise me for including superfluous data. With a smile, he would say, “We don’t need to know that you had a buffalo chicken sandwich at Quiznos for lunch. Just tell us the pertinent information.”
“If you’re going to tell a story,” I would respond, “the details matter.”
Think of the level of detail that J.R.R. Tolkien put into creating the world of Middle-earth, or the care that Maurice Sendak took to show how wild the wild things really were. Specificity. Imagination. Creativity. It is in these expressions that we reflect the divine image of God. Rather than simply say he was a man with some sin tendencies, in Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis said when he looked inside himself, he found “a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds.”
The Scriptures are pretty clear on this: God is a God of specificity. Perhaps this is why commands in the Bible to “give God thanks” are almost always coupled with specific reminders of what God has done. It’s when we hear about God’s blessings in the concrete that our hearts are moved to gratitude and worship.
Consider Psalm 107. Five times in this beautiful “Song of the Redeemed,” God’s people are instructed to “give thanks to the Lord for his steadfast love and wondrous works.” Then those wondrous works are explained:
>> For example, God provides for his own. “Let [the redeemed] thank the Lord. … For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things” (v.9).
>> God frees us from the prison of our fears. “Let them thank the Lord. … For he brought them out of darkness … for he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts into the bars of iron” (v.16).
>> God heals us from our disease. “Let them thank the Lord. … He sent out his word and healed them” (vv.20-21).
>> God calms our anxieties. “Let them thank the Lord. … He made the storm be still, and the waves were hushed … he brought them to their desired haven” (vv. 29, 31).
>> God gives us a place to live. “He turns a desert into pools of water. And there he lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in” (v.36).
>> God rescues us from our enemies. “When they are diminished and brought low through oppression and evil … he raises up the needy out of affliction” (v.41).
Today is Thanksgiving, a day we have set aside to express our gratitude to God and one another. In sharing what you’re thankful for, don’t be afraid to share details. It’s in the concrete examples of God’s faithfulness that our view of God is enlarged and our faith is strengthened. Don’t just say, “I’m so thankful.” Share the reasons why.
Now, speaking of details, where’d I set that sumptuous, golden brown, piping-hot turkey leg?
By his grace,