I don’t know how familiar you are with the cross-stitching process, but first one has to finish the blocks of colors (some large, some small, some really convoluted, etc). Once all that has been done, one has to go through and add the finishing details (mostly single lines that form the outlining and some smaller details).
The vast majority of time spent on a project is on the first part – stitching all the different colors. It takes a lot of time and concentration (and counting). And when that step is done a viewer could totally have a basic idea of the finished project. It’s all there. The outlines go by really quick, and with relatively little effort. But the effect is extremely dramatic. The finished product goes from being “nice” to “wow.”
It made me think. How much do the little details of our lives have an impact on the whole?
Sure, the big sweeping components take the most time and effort, but I think it’s those little details, the things that may happen at the last minute, or even almost as an afterthought that make all the difference.
They take the overall product from “nice” to “wow.”
I’ll borrow a story as an example:
A pastor and his wife, newly assigned to their first ministry, reopened a church in suburban Brooklyn. The pastor stopped by on December 21st to find that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster about 20 feet by 8 feet to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit. By chance, at a flea market, he happened upon a beautiful, handmade, ivory colored, crocheted tablecloth with a Cross embroidered right in the center. It was just the right size to cover up the hole in the front wall. He bought it and headed back to the church. As he returned he noticed an older woman waiting in the snow because she had missed her bus. He of course invited her in to warm up. After he’s done hanging the tablecloth over the hole, he noticed the woman walking down the center aisle. Her face was like a sheet. "Pastor," she said, "where did you get that tablecloth?" The pastor explained. The woman asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials, EBG were crocheted there. To his astonishment, he found they were. These were the initials of the woman. She had made this tablecloth 35 years before, in Austria. She could hardly believe it, for the pastor told her how he had just acquired it.
There’s more to the story. But the point is those little initials on the back of this used tablecloth made all the difference. In fact, they end up reuniting this woman with a husband whom she thought had died 35 years earlier.
Those of you who know me better than others know my brain works in several directions at once. So here’s part two of my deep, rambling, thought.
I was listening to Ravi Zacharias on the radio early one morning and he said something that deeply resonated with me: “Worship is co-extensive with life. It is a moment by moment experience.” I wish I could take credit for putting that phrase together, but alas, I must borrow it from someone else.
There’s no doubt in my mind God is pleased when his children come together for times of corporate worship. (Not too long ago, I compared church to a football game. You can watch from home, but there’s nothing like the electric atmosphere of being in a stadium with all those people who are as excited about the same thing you are. Corporate worship is like that.) But while those times may be the equivalent of broad sweeping blocks of cross stitches, I think the beautifying details...and in all honesty, the real worship of our lives…is lived out in midst of our moment by moment experiences.
I had a passing conversation in the office, and as I was leaving I complimented my co-worker on something. I honestly can’t even remember what it was now. I literally saw her entire countenance change. She stopped, gathered herself, and looked deep into my eyes and said, “Thank you. I really needed to hear that today.” You know those moments when you realize something deeply significant has happened? It was one of those.
Just a detail…a passing moment…but I think God was up there somewhere doing the equivalent of a touchdown celebration.
I guess all of this is just a reminder to myself to pay attention to the details. I know I can sometimes feel trapped or simply swept along by the everyday demands and existing schedule of my life. But maybe that’s ok. In the midst of the broad sweeping segments of life I can keep my eyes open for the chance to add details -- adding an outline or throwing in that occasional French knot (which I myself find extraordinarily challenging to cross-stitch. French knots are my nemesis!).
These are the things that will take life from “nice” to “wow.” And that’s really the reaction I’m going for anyway.