The small things

I’ve been meaning to read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together for a couple of years. Once again, my book purchasing anticipated my course syllabus: I was required to read it this semester.  It’s a great book–one which will be worth reading over and over again over the years.  For some reason–probably because it strikes a current sensitive spot–this passage stuck out to me:

We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts.  We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good.  Then we deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, and we consider this lament to be pious. We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things? (p. 29, emphasis mine)

5 thoughts on “The small things

  1. Toni

    This IS fascinating.

    It may surprise you to know that I actually back away from expressing myself in terms of certainty here, because it’s not been ‘helpful’ in the past. I don’t know if Bonhoeffer is really correct, but it seems natural to be grateful for the simple things in life: like getting through on a green light, arriving somewhere on time or the play of sunlight on some leaves.

    Not that I’m any kind of spiritual giant (you DID know that, right? 😉 ) but we seem to have a diametrically opposite approach. To me, it’s like God sometimes says “this is how it is – enjoy” and *it seems like* you want everything to be more complex, more un-knowable, more difficult or mystical. That life should be about the questions, rather than the answers: about struggle than peace.

    This reminds me of a line in the Hitchhike’s Guide, where the philosophers are talking about how Deep Thought will take away their trade. “I mean, what’s the use of sitting up half the night arguing that there may or may not be a God if this machine only goes and gives you his bleeding phone number the next morning”.

    Exactly.

    Or maybe it’s just better blog-copy to post questions than discoveries (though you do that sometimes too)? I hope this is *helpful* and not antagonistic.

  2. Marc

    “you want everything to be more complex, more un-knowable, more difficult or mystical.”

    I wouldn’t say that. I’d like things to be simple and clear but I recognize that they’re not. I w0uld rather have a deep certainty about everything–I don’t wish uncertainty or doubts upon myself or anyone else.

    But the fact is, some things are mysterious. Some things aren’t clear.

  3. Toni

    Good.

    I’m inclined to believe there are 2 kinds of people in this area: those for whom the answers we do have are more important and those for whom the questions unanswered are more important.

    I’m in the former group, Chris in the latter. She’ll always ask questions where I don’t see a problem: sometimes that’s good and sometimes not. I wonder, from one of Dixie’s recent posts, if you and she are a little like us, but the other way round?

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