June 5, 2009
The Small Stuff
by Charles R. Swindoll
"Don't sweat the small stuff."
Somebody said that to me the other day. It helped . . . momentarily. I needed reality's nudge. Being casual on the outside but a fairly thorough and disciplined soul within, I sometimes need to be reminded that few people will even notice the thing I'm camping on. Or care, for that matter. So? So sweating the small stuff can occasionally be a drag.
But there's another side to that coin. Greatness and the attention to detail, in my opinion, are welded together. A great piece of music is like that---carefully arranged orchestration carrying out a majestic melody with the whole sound of harmony. Haunting chords, rhythm, and lyrics. The choral group that performs is also committed to the fine line. Not much room for "don't sweat the small stuff" philosophy.
A great piece of writing is equally a masterpiece of detail. Phrases are turned. Words are chosen, shaped, sometimes chiseled so as to dovetail into the precise meaning or description the author requires. And behind such exactness, such literary beauty? Sweat. Trust me, a lot of sweat. Because great writing, like great music, comprises not only sweeping, broad-brush scenes but also small stuff, which takes time . . . so very much time.
Great artwork is the same. Look at the masters. Observe the choice of colors, the texture, the shading. Study the lines on that ton of white marble to which Michelangelo once put his hands. Those fluid lines in David's form don't just happen to flow. It's no accident that you're surprised to find the stonework cold to the touch. Something that real is supposed to have warm blood in it. Why? Because the Italian genius labored long hours over the small stuff. Something inside his head could settle for nothing less.
A solid biblical basis for such an emphasis on quality is not hard to find. Consider the superb manner in which the tabernacle was designed and constructed. Next, the temple built during Solomon's rule . . . with its "windows with artistic frames," elaborate beams, winding stairways, gold-covered cherubim, and "stone prepared at the quarry" so that "neither hammer nor axe nor iron tool [would be] heard in the house while it was being built" (1 Kings 6:4-8, 28). The name of God was exalted as people witnessed such detailed beauty. It still is.
What is true of grand music, great writing, priceless art, and quality construction is also true of the way some still practice medicine or law, do their architectural drawings, teach their students, type their letters, preach their sermons, play their instruments, cook meals, fix cars, coach teams, sell insurance, run a business, a home, a school, a restaurant, or a ministry. It makes them stand out in bold relief . . . clearly a cut above the average. It's not for the money or for the glory or for the fame it may bring. It's simply a matter of deep-seated personal pride and commitment. Nothing less satisfies. It all boils down to fine, rare, quality craftsmanship.
Decide now to do something special in the next twenty-four hours---something no one may ever notice except you and your Creator---in which you can demonstrate high-quality workmanship. While you're deciding what to do, read with reverence the first chapter of Genesis---and think about workmanship.
Sometimes the small stuff is a big deal.
Reprinted by permission. Day by Day, Charles Swindoll, July 2005, Thomas Nelson, inc., Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved. Purchase "Day by Day" here.