God in the details

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I just spent two weeks in Paris. I saw – on a near-daily basis – things of extraordinary beauty: the surprising sight of the Eiffel Tower, backlit in pink and orange at sundown or bristling in sparkle late at night; humans memorialized in stone and gold and marble, expressionless and majestic at the center of squares and parks; miles of grey and cream apartment buildings from another century, with delicate molding and tiny wrought-iron balconies.

I have been to Paris many times, and I am never not overwhelmed in the best possible sense by all of this. But on this trip, I found myself more interested in smaller things and moments: The unintentionally reverent silence of commuters on the metro; the delicate patter of a tiny dog faithfully following his master; a glazed apricot nestled in flaky pastry at a corner patisserie. This time, the details caught me, made me stop and think, and wonder. These details – even the mundane and the quotidian (French for “daily”) – seemed somehow more captivating on my 8th trip to perhaps the most famous city in the world.

Memorials and museums and buildings stand eternal and erect for centuries, and are quite impressive. But they don’t move. They don’t move off of the metro, yelp for their master, or get devoured by a hungry teenager. They are impassible. Details – on the other hand – change, evolve, and grow. Details are what make the city messy, chaotic, and alive.

I think there is a deeper spiritual reality at play here. Just as the details of Paris gained a new significance for me – surpassing the “more impressive” sights even – I have grown into a recognition that likewise the details of my life may be more important – and spiritual – than I previously realized.

God is in the details of my life. When I want to focus on bigger-picture accomplishments and milestones, He’s instead with me in the messy and the mundane. He’s with me when I wash dishes, or send a text message. He’s with me while I prepare dinner, or get ready for bed. He’s with me while I finish a workday, and wake up to a Saturday. God is with me in my daily frustrations, my disappointments, my small victories, and my laughter. God is immanent. He is Immanuel – God with us in all things, not just the on the mountaintop (or the top of the Eiffel Tower, or in the Louvre, or wherever).

Not only is God with me in the messy and mundane – He’s working through me in the messy and the mundane. The details of my life are what shape me. On this mostly-solo trip to France, I am shaped not by the larger picture of disembarking the plane, but by the smaller moments that make up my trip. When I get lost (again and again and again) on my morning jog through a park, He is teaching me to be patient with myself. When I blessedly discover a boulangerie is still open on a Sunday night after I arrive in a new city, He is showing me His provision (in the form of fresh baguette). Likewise, when I sit on yet another bus or train and wonder about my future, fighting different fears and anxieties, He is teaching me perspective and endurance.

These details – the small moments, the daily frustrations, and little victories – make my own life a bit messy and chaotic. But with the hand of God on them, they make my life interesting and evolving. When I want to relegate my Maker to a stone monument or end destination, He is instead with me in the narrow streets, navigating me, making my steps stronger, and teaching me to trust Him and trust myself.

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