If you’re like me, you’re a thinker with a tendency to overthink, and a bit of a control freak, with perfection—by my definition—being the goal. The result is that I’m very concerned – okay, let’s call it obsessed – with the details of life. Sometimes they’re big details, like whom will I marry and when, and sometimes small, like why am I taking this class and trudging through this syllabus. And in the details I often lose sight of God and how He relates to my situation.
I’m not a Darwinist or a deist, but when obsessing over the details of my life I’ve found it easy to assume those narratives, that God is aloof or indifferent to this pale blue dot that is my world. In the range of issues with which God deals, what is my life against the cosmos or the ecosystems or rainforests or the refugee crisis or the masses who’ve never heard the name of Jesus? Mentally, I know that God cares for me and for these small details that mean the world to me, but I often don’t feel like it or act like it.
It’s not that God doesn’t care about details, though. Have you ever read God’s instructions in Exodus for building the tabernacle? God wrote down so many details that it’s hard to stay awake. Of all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge which God could have recorded in His Word, He chose to give us many pages outlining the uses of things like blue, purple, and scarlet threads and of finely spun linen. God pays attention to the details, too.
Blue, purple, and scarlet may be God’s favorite colors for accenting linen curtains. I suppose we don’t really know. But what’s unlikely is that God named those colors because He’s a snob or wanted to make life hard for the nation He was single-handedly sustaining in the wilderness. There must be another explanation.
Anyone who’s skipped ahead in the Bible from Exodus to the New Testament will know that God cares about the details there, too. Have you read the Sermon on the Mount? Jesus orders us not to worry because there is more to life than the basic needs we all have, and which God knows that we need. God, it turns out, is concerned about even the details none of us keep tabs on and which most of us would never think to. Do you know how many birds died in your neighborhood this week? Do you know how many hairs are on your head, now or in 30 years? God knows, and He takes time not just to care, but also to let us know He cares.
God’s knowing and caring are not esoteric, like a geriatric stamp-collector or a bird-watcher. The point of naming threads in the Mosaic law and birds in the Sermon on the Mount is not that God’s concern lies in the random and obscure. God cares about the details and this is not pointless.
But there’s the rub. I care deeply about my life, and so does God. The things I care about, God also cares about; He notices what weighs heavily on my heart. But so often in my life I’ve found that we care about the details for different reasons. The details that keep me up at night have desires behind the dreams. A marriage or job or friendship are not, even when I idolize them, ends unto themselves. When it comes down to it, I desire security and comfort and control, and I tell myself I’ll find them in the details of my life. So I obsess and I worry.
God disagrees. He’s not disinterested in the details, as anyone who’s tried to read the Bible in a year knows by February. He’s just interested for different reasons. In Exodus, God tells us the context for why He cares about the details. The purpose of blue, purple, and scarlet threading is found in Exodus 25:8. The purpose of the tabernacle subsumed the purpose of the threads, and the purpose of the tabernacle was for the people to live in right fellowship with God.
Things don’t change in the New Testament, either. In Matthew 6, Jesus tells His disciples what it looks like to follow Him. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, Jesus says, will be blessed and they should not worry about the details of life. God knows what they need and He cares more for them than the plants and birds which He also cares for. The context of Matthew 6 is the context of Exodus 25: how to live in right fellowship with God. That’s the context in which God cares about the details of my life.
So God and I are both concerned about the details of my life. But I am concerned about the details of my life in the way that Voldemort obsessed over and guarded the horcruxes—as an extension and safeguard of his life and his identity. God is concerned about the details of my life in the way that Professor Dumbledore cared for Harry Potter—lovingly, even confusingly, but at all times with Harry’s best interest at heart.
The answer to my obsessing and to my worries is not to stop caring. Is that even possible? No, the point is to care about the details of my life for the right reason, with the right goal in mind. The sovereignty and goodness of God—the One who cares for plants and birds—nullifies any need for me to obsess over the details in order to maintain a farce of securit, comfort, and control. God my Father knows the things I need. So I am free to care about every stray thread and every little bird in my life, not from some illusion of perfection, but for right fellowship with God.