“Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
That saying resonates with us because it jolts us back into separating the wheat from the chaff, the meaningless stuff from the stuff that matters.
But there’s never any shortage in the world of big stuff to sweat over–real stuff but also imaginary stuff manufactured by the media and the other, usual suspects, like the gas-bag politicians.
(Somebody wake me when this election’s over: this could be the year of the Dallas Cowboys, proving once again that there is a God and that God is good.)
The Bible says 365 times (yes, 365–an interesting number): “Fear not!” We find God constantly commanding us to have no fear of anything or anyone except God Himself/Herself. And even that biblical fear is not so much about fearing as much as revering.
God knows that we’re prone to deny ourselves love, grace and peace of mind out of fears that are imagined and exaggerated in our restless heads. And yet our real experiences in life show us over and over that the things we work ourselves up the most about with worry and fear are the things that never happen. It’s the unexpected things in life that throw us curves and put us on our knees before the God that we so suddenly and desperately call on to help us through some dark and truly fearful valley.
And yet we live in a time now when even the most devout Christians deny themselves the overflowing cup of grace and peace of God to be found in daily living because of the pervasive fear tactics of those with the big megaphones (media, politicians, TV evangelists) who make lots of money and gain lots of worldly power keeping us all jacked up with irrational fear and tension.
In his book Whistling in the Dark, His Greatness Frederick Buechner wrote with his usual, simple eloquence of how the news can divert our attention from the little things that actually matter in a routine day.
“When the evening news comes on,” Buechner said, “hundreds of thousands of people all over the earth are watching it on their TV screens or listening to it on their radios. Disasters and scandals, scientific breakthroughs and crimes of passion, perpetual wars and the perpetual search for peace—people sit there by the millions half dazed by the things that go to create each particular day. Maybe they even try to make some kind of sense of it or, if they’re not up to that, at least try to come to some sort of terms with it, try to figure out how it’s apt to affect them for good or ill.
“There is also, of course, the news that rarely if ever gets into the media at all, and that is the news of each particular day of each particular one of us. That is the news we’re so busy making that we seldom get around to sitting down and thinking it over. If it takes some extraordinary turn we might, but the unextraordinary, commonplace events of each day as they come along we tend to let slip by almost unnoticed. That is, to put it mildly, a pity. What we are letting slip by almost unnoticed are the only lives on this planet we’re presumably ever going to get. [My italics for emphasis.]
“We’re all of us caught up in our own small wars, both hot and cold. We have our crimes and passions, our failures and successes. We make our occasional breakthroughs. God knows we are searching for peace. It’s all apt to happen so quietly and on so small a scale we hardly realize it’s happening. Only an unanswered letter. A phone conversation. A tone of voice. A chance meeting at the post office. An unexpected lump in the throat. Laughing till we cry. But these things are what it’s all about. These things are what we are all about.”
Such things are what it’s all about–talking with a buddy about the Cowboys game at the post office; or sharing the news of our child’s accomplishments with a friend over coffee; or calling someone who’s been laid low by genuinely bad or scary news: such are the commonplace and events and encounters that we might not recognize as stuff that matters in fostering a healthy, balanced life and life in a healthy, balanced community.
Catch the spirit of God’s love and grace and tender little mercy bugs–it’s not hard to catch.
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.