None of us would likely question that our lives are made up of a great many details. It is also true that some of us are “detail” oriented and some of us only want the “big rocks.” It’s not about one being right and one being wrong and more how we are oriented by personality type and preference.
A common source of laughter at our home is the contrast between my husband and me. If someone calls to ask about something that has happened in our lives, he can sum it all up in several minutes because the “big rocks” is where he focuses. If the person wants the real scoop and a “play-by-play” account, I am the one to talk with.
But just don’t stereotype us or anyone else because it doesn’t necessarily apply across the board. My husband is meticulous about restoration work he does on things related to his hobby and if you ask him about something he is working on, be prepared to hear far more detail than you may fully understand. If we have purchased a new item that comes with a booklet of directions with detailed instructions, I want my husband to read those and just give me the “big rocks.”
You have likely heard the idiom – “the devil is in the details” – but do you know the source and intent? The curious thing is that the idiom itself was not what the author originally said because the detail of a letter changed the meaning of his words.
The source of the idiom or proverb is often attributed to a German/American architect, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, but careful research suggests it was an earlier proverb – “Der liebe Gott steckt in detail.” The translation is “God is in the detail” and there is no evidence that Mies Van Der Rohe was the first to use it.
Over time an “s” was added in the translation from the earlier form and became “the devil is in the details” coming into common use in the 1990’s.
The dictionary refers to the meaning as “a catch or mysterious element hidden in the details, meaning that something might seem simple at a first look but will take more time and effort to complete than expected.”
I am not sure how the original intent was changed, but it strikes me that the devil would always want us to get mired in details that he might throw into a problem or situation to throw us off track from the details the Lord would have us see and recognize. Confusion is one of the enemy’s favorite tactics and that always adds more time and challenge to whatever we are dealing with.
Perhaps it is also because God is actually into the details and the enemy wants to take that credit onto himself like he does every other attribute of God since that is who he is trying to be.
It only takes a brief scan of what we know about creation to see God is very much detail oriented. He may have spoken things into existence, but clearly his words have meaning and power beyond what we can fathom. And when we look at creation we need to stop at his detailed creation of humankind and how He made Adam and then “fashioned” Eve.
It doesn’t take a first-year medical student to recognize the intricacies of every system of the body and the delicate balance needed to keep it humming along well beyond the 50,000-mile maintenance. It doesn’t take an astronomer a raft of charts and maps of the universe to inform us that God is into details.
If you study the Bible you see a very detail-oriented God who never loses the “big rocks” in the process. Details of who He is and how He functions and what and who is important to Him is crystal clear at the outset and follows through from Genesis to Revelation. How specific it is can be seen in the example of the Old Testament prophecy about when, how, and who would be born and appear as the Savior that fills the pages of the New Testament.
If we pause in the rush of daily life, we get in touch with how much He involves himself in the details of our lives as well. He is intimately acquainted with us. It is we who too often are not intimately acquainted with Him and the deep fellowship He longs to have with each of us – the very thing that brought about the plan for a Savior to restore to Him.
We are immersed in detail and sometimes we fail to recognize its impact on us because we get focused on the details of something we are doing while losing sight of the many details that are impacting, influencing, and shaping us every day.
These things we are bombarded with from the time we awaken until we drift off to sleep have power, we need to pay attention to. These things shape our desires and what we practice and become habit.
Consider how James K.A. Smith describes this process:
“Our desires are caught more than they are taught. All kinds of cultural rhythms and routines are, in fact, rituals that function as pedagogies of desire precisely because they tacitly and covertly train us to love a certain version of the kingdom, teach us to long for some renditions of the good life. These aren’t just things we do; they do something to us.”
Are the details that are shaping us, the ones we are practicing, fit with the original idiom – “God is in the detail” – or have we focused on a different habit so that “the devil is in the details?”
That distinction is crucial and can make all the difference in who we become, who we look like.