THE LITTLE THINGS

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Little drops of water,
Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean,
And the pleasant land.
(Ellen C. Brewer)

Many of us remember Bible school days, when we sang this song as innocent children. Possibly most of us had never been to the ocean or sauntered over the desert sands, and our mind’s eye was unable to picture the vastness of the things we were singing about. But even then we dreamed of great things: the majestic mountains, towering skyscrapers, magnificent ocean liners, airplanes leaving wispy trails in the sky, powerful locomotives pulling mile-long trains, and we yearned to see and experience them. Prizes are given for the biggest, the fastest, the most magnificent, the most powerful, but there is a common denominator that unites them all—they are made of little things. Uniquely put together, marvelously shaped and fitted but comprised of many, many little things. And then, on the other hand, powerful microscopes have been developed to see not big things but the smallest of things. Why? Because they are important. Very important. So important that we want to talk about them.
We live our lives as a tale that is told, the Bible says, and the obituaries in this paper will attest to that. They touch on the highlights, but space prohibits the telling of the many things that permitted the highlights. They did not just happen in an abstract way but were, in themselves, the culmination of minutes, hours, days, and, finally, years of diligently reaching for a goal. Sadly, there are also epitaphs of just the opposite, of aimlessly drifting, without purpose, taking the course of least resistance.
The farmer harvests his record yield of corn and puts it in the bin as many little kernels. The rich man sits on his pile of cash, and it is still counted in dollars, which are comprised of a hundred pennies. The trucker, when he throttles up his 700-horsepower diesel, still measures it in a quantity divisible by one. It seems there is nothing big; it is only a collection of small things.
The little things. Oh, how important they are! To be responsible for. To keep track of. To lose. To value. To disregard. To put off. To do now. To give away. Does not everything have a small beginning? You could never tell another lie if you had not told the first one. You will never steal another candy bar if you have not stolen the first one. You will never pray another prayer if you have not prayed the first one. Is the pattern of our lives not established by the little things?
Someone once told me his boss had told him not to worry about the house payment; it is the five dollars in your pocket that will get away. “Oh, it’s such a little amount,” we say. But will there ever be big things if the little ones are not accounted for? The latch does not hold on the tractor door; one day the wind catches the door and rips it loose. It began as just a small repair. The roof leaks, one drop at a time, but of course only when it rains. We can catch it in a bucket, but then the ceiling falls down. The junk pile behind the shed, now overwhelming, began as one piece of scrap. “I’ll try to start on it tomorrow,” we say, and that good intention gives a bit of a lift, but tomorrow never comes. The vacuum sweeper has a problem, easily fixable, and a reminder has been given several times. It gives out right before company is coming, and now it’s not only the vacuum, but the marriage may need some repair work.
A crop scout told me years ago—probably because he saw I needed it—all farmers, good and poor alike, do the same things, the only difference is that one of them does it on time. How many businesses have crumbled, how many marriages have failed, how many Christian testimonies have been destroyed because the little things went unheeded?
Is neglect a sin? Is waste a sin? Procrastination? All of them have one thing in common—they remove or destroy what we once had. The farmer plans all year, fertilizes the ground, plants the seed, controls the weeds, but if he overloads the truck at harvest and spills it over the side, all those inputs are wasted. “It’s just a bushel,” he says, but so are those that made it into the bin. The leftovers at the table are dumped into the trash, “It doesn’t pay to save,” we say, and it is just like the bushel of corn—everything was put into it, but nothing gained. Often, a business operates on a small margin of profit, and the accumulation of a few small discrepancies will spell the difference between success and failure.
Life can be so humdrum, and we need a little outing. A trip to town sounds enticing; after all, there are a few things on the list that we need. The day is spent browsing through the stores, and the attractively packaged and cunningly advertised item catches our eye. We did not know we needed it before we left home, but now it seems life is hardly complete without it. And today, it is 30 percent off! So the five dollars leave our pocket, or fifty dollars, or maybe even five hundred dollars, and we take it home. Perhaps it winds up collecting dust on the shelf, or the perfectly good item it replaced does. Finally, one or the other ends up on a garage sale, disposed of for cents on the dollar. Or maybe that is my thing, shopping the pawn shops or garage sales, bargaining for these disposed of items, which can be a good thing if we remember the counsel of my uncle, “A bargain isn’t a bargain, no matter how cheap it is, unless you need it.”
Today is ours, we can use it, or we can waste it. And it, very likely, will be a day of small things. It may be a day to listen to someone’s heartache or read a little child a story. It could be a day to take care of a disagreeable chore. Use it to its fullest. And as the writer of Proverbs inscribes in chapter 22, verse 29, “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings.” Surely it would do no violence to the Scriptures to substitute, in the place of “business,” the words, “marriage,” “relationships,” or “life.” Diligence is one of the key ingredients in the recipe for success. It is our choice, if we want to be effective in our Christian lives, financial lives, relationships, and businesses, we are going to need to take care of the small things, because without them, there will be no big things.

From Messenger of Truth, Vol. 113, No. 07, April 1, 2015