God in the Details

Posted on Wednesday 22 April 2009

“God is in the details” is a phrase I’ve heard plenty of times – enough to cause me to wonder who first said it, and why. So I spent some time recently searching for the source of this particular phrase (you may rightly call me a “word nerd”) and discovered that it’s a knock-off, of sorts.

The original epigram was “the devil is in the details,” meant to convey that even the grandest projects may be sabotaged in their smallest components. Maybe so, but I like the God-version better.

It’s attributed to Le Corbusier, a 20th century French architect and city planner – a man known for designing buildings with unusual curves and unconventional shapes. Maybe he sat at his drawing table one day and decided he was weary of sketching structural box after structural box, and wondered what would happen if he softened just a corner or two, here and there.

And maybe the result of his noodling was delight, so he did it again and kept on doing it.

I acknowledge God often as the architect of the Grand Design – but I also frequently fail to give Him praise as the God of the small and intricate. He’s not only the God who spoke worlds into being, divided seas, defeated armies and once and for all plundered the grave – He’s the God who invaded history and time in the form of an embryo, invented eyelashes, saves my tears in a bottle, and decided 1,000 shades of green weren’t near enough.

How can I not love a God who so loves the details?

And because He is in the details, shouldn’t He also be manifest in the details of my life? Couldn’t He be recognized in a hug that lasts half a second longer than it needs to, or a word swallowed that rises up in indignation when I think I have been wronged?

Isn’t He exalted in the decision of my artist friend who remixes a color she’s already placed on the linen canvas before her because it doesn’t yet match the one she sees in her mind’s eye? And doesn’t He shine in the silence of my counselor friend who waits another second or two for a response he knows is struggling to make its way out of his client’s heart? And couldn’t He be in the patience of a tired mother of two, who uses a cookie cutter to make a peanut butter sandwich look like a dinosaur, when a butter knife would just as well do?

Oh, yes. My God is definitely in the details. And today, I am more decidedly on the lookout for them.

Thine, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Thine is the dominion, O lord, and Thou dost exist Thyself as head over all. (I Chronicles 29:11, NASB)

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