Photo by mr_dissing
“God is in the details.” I’ve always sort of liked the idea of that quote, but I have to admit, I’ve never really dug into what it means (or what it means to me, beyond the realms of art, architecture and the natural world).
Then today, when I was responding to a comment from Matt on my blog (the post is about identity, and Matt brought up the difference between “purpose” and “destiny”) I found myself thinking and writing this:
…to be honest, I’m not a big believer in “destiny” as a part of my faith. I believe too much in free will, and the ability to shift and alter our lives as we go, for better or worse. I also believe there are many paths we can take (in terms of who we partner with, what we do for a living, etc.) that can be in line with our true identity and God’s “will for our lives.” In other words, the identity is agile and God’s will is more about the big picture than the specific details.
That sort of sounds like the opposite of “God is in the details,” doesn’t it?
So which is it—a God of details or the big picture?
Not surprisingly, I’m going to go with “he’s both,” because God is like that—sort of big and hard to pin down. But I couldn’t just leave it at that, of course, so I took a walk this morning I thought through this “both-and” characteristic of God. Here’s my tentative conclusion: God’s will is about the big picture, but he is manifested in the details of how we live out that will.
In other words, God’s big picture for me might include compassion and writing. They are part of my identity, but there are many ways I can (and have) lived out those parts of who I am. It’s when a specific part of my identity becomes a concrete action in my life that God can be seen. My faith is this complex, encompassing thing, but that’s not how it’s seen by others. It’s more likely seen in a single sentence I write that hits home, or the flavor of a soup I make for a sick friend.
If you use the mosaic-style image above as a metaphor, it might work sort of like this: God’s goal is to make that big-picture image look like something meaningful—like the you he created you to be. But all those little pictures that make up the big picture? They represent our choices, our relationships, our actions. God can work with what we give him, but sometimes we veer off track and the materials we supply start to distort the big picture, making it hard to recognize.
Because it’s inevitable. Those God-revealing details are often overrun by the many mindless, meaningless details that fill our days—the ones that aren’t at all rooted in his big picture purpose for our lives. What’s more, all those empty details can distract us (and those around us) from the God-revealing details. That’s why it’s so important to keep working at uncovering our big-picture identities, and lining them up with our more detailed purpose and free will actions.
OK, now my brain hurts, so you all can take over—point out the flaws in my approach, and get me thinking all over again! :) I’d also love to hear if you think this big-picture-vs.-detail take on identity rings true in a philosophical sense, even if you don’t believe in God.