The weatherman said our temps were ten degrees below normal for this time of the year. I discovered he was right as I sat shivering in a treestand on opening morning. I brushed off his claim because, well you know, always being accurate in that job is not a prerequisite. I know they try, and I know they can’t completely know, but let’s just say I’m glad the standards for heart surgeons are not this hit-or-miss. There are just some things where details really matter. I have the opportunity each semester to teach undergrad students. One of their assignments is to do a summary of a particular chapter in an assigned book. The instructions simply say this. “Your grade will be determined by your ability to follow directions.” I tell them I’m not interested in their opinion or their ability to do more than the desired amount, or anything else. Just simply their ability to follow directions. Why? Because in most things details matter. In some things they are essential and are life-giving or life-taking. Take for instance my student who wants to become a veterinarian. Since I don’t want her to kill my dog, I prefer her to get the details of a prescription right. Take my other student who wants to become an electrician. Since his wife wants him to come home each night, she would prefer him to get the details right as well. The second mile of sacrifice cannot come before the first mile of obligation. Or as Samuel, the prophet of God told King Saul, “To obey is better than sacrifice.”
When I think about the life of faith, sometimes I want to bring to God’s attention each time I sacrificed. (Or at least what I considered a sacrifice) I want to remind him about the extra I put in the offering plate or the meal I passed up in order to pray, or the hamburger I handed out the window to homeless individual. I remind him of giving up Monday Night Football for a Bible study or getting out of the treestand early on Sunday, so I didn’t miss church. The truth is, while all these things may be good or honorable, the details are much more mundane – and yet more crucial. They are the obligation of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are what the Holy Spirit, our teacher, is trying to bring about in our lives, and simply what God is looking for from being in his class. Why are these so crucial? Because they are the tools God uses in our life to point others to him. And they confirm we are a child of God. Our sacrifices are great, but the first thing God is looking for is the basics. It is my ability – my willingness- to simply follow the directions.