RITE OF PASSAGE: The Small Stuff
A few years ago, a popular book came out titled Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. I think it was successful because it reminded people to keep life in perspective. Its message came home to me recently when I was preaching in Tampa, Fla.
For a number of years, I didn’t know you were supposed to floss your teeth. As a child, I didn’t even know what flossing was. Growing up in rural America, I thought you were blessed if you just had two good front teeth. I came from a long line of non-flossers. My great-grandparents didn’t floss, my grandparents didn’t floss, my parents didn’t floss. So whenever I visit the dentist, I get to hear a lecture about flossing. God has placed my teeth so close together that even the dental hygienist has a hard time flossing them. You know the Scripture that says it is harder for a rich man to get into Heaven than a camel through the eye of a needle? They could add another line: it is easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle than to run floss between Walker’s teeth. I equate flossing with rotating my tires: you know you’re supposed to do it, but it seldom gets done.
However, I understand I need to take care of what God has given me. That means I am always interested in the latest technology to keep my teeth and gums healthy. When the first Water Pik came out years ago, I bought one. This is the device that has a water tank and a tube that runs from it to a device that shoots out water. The high water pressure is supposed to dislodge food particles, massage your gums and clean your teeth all at the same time. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But the actual experience was similar to going to a car wash, putting in a quarter and inserting the nozzle in your mouth. When I used the Water Pik, I got water all over the counter top, soaked my clothes and hosed down half the bathroom by the time I finished. Still, I had clean teeth, so I didn’t sweat the small stuff (no matter how wet it was).
Recently, I bought two battery-operated toothbrushes. The first one oscillated as it scrubbed your teeth. A week after I bought it, the company came out with a new and improved version that not only oscillated, but had a whitening strip at the bottom. I bought that one instead. While I was in Florida, I became concerned that the batteries on my toothbrush were going out. It wasn’t oscillating or scrubbing as fast as it did when I first bought it. I began to worry: what will I do when the batteries go dead?
Then it stuck me: don’t sweat the small stuff. After all, my oscillating, whitening-strip scrubbing toothbrush will still be a toothbrush when the batteries go dead. At that point, it will turn back into an old-fashioned, elbow-powered toothbrush. With or without batteries, it is still a toothbrush and will do the work it was designed to do. Some days, brushing my teeth is about the only exercise I get. This experience reminded me of visiting the mall when the escalator breaks down. Does the escalator suddenly become worthless? No. It turns into . . . a staircase.
Yet, the small stuff is what will make a big difference in your children’s lives. Praying with them before they leave for school each day. Writing a note of affirmation to place inside their lunch boxes. Stopping for an ice cream and taking time to listen to them tell about their day. Sticking “I love you” notes inside their backpacks. Small stuff like words of praise and hugs goes a long way to shore up a child’s identity.
Remind your children about the small stuff of the Bible, too. “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14). “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you” (Luke 17:6). Tell them about the small boy with two small fish and the lady with the two small copper coins. Both gave their small stuff to . . . Him. Please make sure you teach your children to watch out for that small tongue in their mouth; it can do great damage. Remind them also that if they are faithful with the small stuff, God will give them . . . more.
Even the small stuff matters to God. And that means it should matter to you, too.