One of the traits I inherited from my mom is a tender heart. When something/someone grips my heart, I’m not a good bluffer. If I love something/someone, there’s no hiding it. It shines through. So with that as a warning, read on if you track with slice-of-life stories about appreciating the small things.
Most of you know that I’m in the military. I spend my weeks away from my family. I’m a geo-bachelor, as the saying goes. So I only see my wife and children a day, perhaps a day and a half a week. So those few hours are precious to me.
As I drove home Saturday, it was a cool misty morning. The rain fell gently on my car’s windshield from a leaden sky for the three-hour drive north to home. When I arrived, my son was at his job, and my wife was busy about the house. She had baked homemade bread and I was eager to try some.
I played with the dogs, as is my custom. And our cat (much sweeter on my wife and son than on me) eventually wanted some affection, too. But I make no apologies about being a dog person. I really wouldn’t want to imagine life without dogs (but my wife would welcome dogs that don’t shed!).
Anyway, as the afternoon wore on, we went to pick up our son when he got off from work and went to a Mexican restaurant we frequent near our home. After that, we all wanted something sweet, so we stopped by the store for some Snickers ice cream bars, quite possibly a dessert from the angelic realm.
That evening my wife and I took in a movie with Paul Newman and Jude Law that we both enjoyed. And Sunday morning, we rose to prepare for Sunday school and corporate worship with our church family.
In Sunday school, our class is going through the book of Esther. Today we covered the climax of the historical narrative, where wicked Haman received his justice. He was hanged on the gallows he’d had erected for (he thought) Mordecai. But God had other plans. Haman’s evil was thwarted. Esther received favor as intercessor before King Ahasuerus/Xerxes, Mordecai was lauded for his obedience and courage, and Haman was executed.
Our Sunday school class rejoiced in seeing God superintend history. We talked of how God opens the scroll, as it were, like Ahasuerus opened the chronicles and had them read. The good done with seemingly no notice before was suddenly accounted for, and benediction came to Mordecai, Esther, and ultimately the Jewish people in Persia. Good came from evil. Evil was used as part of God’s good sovereign plan. Purim was instituted and we saw the sovereignty of God in and over history.
I engaged in deep conversations with the saints from class and from church. We sang, we prayed, we sat under the heralding of the gospel for our souls. And later the pastor taught from 2 Timothy, one of Paul’s salvos in the pastoral epistles, about keeping the main thing the main thing, and not quarreling about adiaphora.
After church, we went to our favorite Italian place for pizza and wings. We had a wonderful new waitress (we go there so often, we know who is new.) I left her a generous tip. She worked very hard, and the place was packed with customers. Not an easy job, if you ask me. Some customers can be less than ideal.
When we got back home, we were all stuffed. I played with the dogs again, and my wife, though, (and here’s where it’s the sentimental slice-of-life part I mentioned above), she never even changed out of her church clothes. She went right to the kitchen. She wrapped the bread she had baked for me. She made a breakfast casserole for me and told me how long to bake it when I got back to post. She boxed up some chicken parmesan for me to eat on through the week. She even put in the leftover fajitas from Saturday in a cooler for me. She helped me load the car and came down to the basement with me as I prepared to hit the road for another week of military life.
I drove the three hours back to post. I watched the sun set over post as I entered the gate and drove to my little apartment.
And when I walked in my place and unloaded the cooler and reflected on my brief time with my loved ones, I realized once again that it’s the little things that aren’t little at all. It’s that steady, faithful, committed love that sees us through. She’s so much like her dad. They’re the most organized people I’ve ever met. There’s a drawer or folder or box for everything. Like her parents, she’s faithful. She presses on in the daily grind, and puts up with her sinful and so-often-absent husband. She puts up with my book-buying regimen. And she still lets me snuggle up beside her and kiss her.
Now that I’m back in my little apartment away from the family, it is quiet. And a loneliness hits me because I miss those I love. But I look around me, and I see the bread she made, the coolers she packed, and her hairs are on my shirt (and I love it).
See? I told you it was a sentimental story.
My takeaway? The small things aren’t small. They reveal what’s inside.
I have a book where I record the most meaningful phrases/proverbs/folk wisdom I’ve heard in my years. And those who know me have probably heard me say this one a lot: “What’s down in the well comes up in the bucket.”
When I look at the little glasses of grace that I’m able to drink, so to speak, I pray that I never outgrow saying, Thank you, Lord, for who you are and for those you have given me. I do not deserve them. But I thank you for them.