I've just about given up on the little things. Because they mean so little...and so very, very much.
It's never the big things that eat away at relationships, or even that gnaw at our own hearts after we turn in for the night. It's never the big things that turn us away from one another. It's the little things...that we've made into big things...because if we hadn't, there wouldn't be anything to argue about.
A couple of weeks ago, it finally hit me. I was in the midst of something fairly routine that involved a couple of those little things. And I finished the way I normally finish the thing I normally do, and then I sat down for a minute contemplating. Someone had asked me (demanded, really) that "from now on" when I finish this simple something, "do not" do as I would normally do. But instead, "do" something totally different or "do not" do the thing itself at all. The other person was wrong. I mean, absolutely undeniably wrong because the discomfort she thought her new "do this every time" would fix was not impacted by what she actually asked of me. So I did what I would normally do, as I would normally do it, and sat down, preparing for the fight in my head and figuring out what I would say to her when she realized that I had done, but did not not do, and how we were going to work it all out.
In other words, I was defiantly prepared to explain to her how wrong she was, and I was determined to make logic stick.
But you know what sticks better than even infallible logic? Amazing grace.
As I sat there, waiting on the fight, preparing for the fight, knowing I would storm away and not talk to her again for hours, maybe days, I was already calculating in my head how ridiculous she was being. I was already infuriated at how obstinate she can be. I was already defending myself against her closed-minded inability to see her own flaws. I was prepared to lose the fight, and it seemed so stupid to me because it was the epitome of a little thing - the littlest of little things.
And just as I concluded that if it was that important to her for this little thing to be done, she could do it herself...I found myself standing up with this simple breath of peace and saying to myself, "It's just a little thing" then going to do as I was asked to do and remove the evidence that I did not not do as I was demanded not to do. Then I sat back down and settled in a bit....nothing to wait for any more and nothing to defend myself against. In fact, by the time the time came when it mattered whether I did or did not or did not not do or whatever...I had forgotten whether I had or whether I hadn't.
It was that little of a thing.
Yet it was realizing how little of a thing it was that kind of sucked it back down to size and made it nearly not a thing at all. It was realizing that as eaten away as I can get about someone else wanting their little things, the truth is that as hard as it would be for me to convince them to change their mind, or at least see their obstinate, backwards, self-obsessed ways...it is much easier for me to just get up and do it like they'd like to have it done. Particularly when I am able to realize and firmly understand that I, personally, have no emotional big attachment to the little things. Not any more.
I used to. Oh Lord, I used to. And I was hardnosed about it. Because, you understand, my way was always right and always better.
Now, I surrender to a right and better way. And that is grace.
Let me tell you this: These little things that it's so easy to fight against, that it's easy to dig our toes in the ground and hold our position and defend ourselves and try to explain to someone else that it's such a little thing - these are not the things that are going to make our relationship; they are only going to break it.
These are not the things that lovers whisper "I love you" about when they snuggle into bed at night. These are not the things that families keep bringing up in the kitchen, just to remind you how much they appreciate you. These are not the stories that friends tell when they come together over coffee every week, month, year, decade. These are just the little things; the things that only matter when we get them wrong and we can't be lovers, families, or friends any more. (Which is so dumb, I know, but it happens. It's happened to all of us.)
In meaning so little, it's the little things that mean so much. It's the little things that mean respect. That mean honor. That mean value. It's the little things that define our relationships with one another and either give us the chance for the big moment or set the stage for the fight. In thinking about it, in really thinking about it, I'd rather have the moment. I'd rather have the big things.
That's why when I do what I would normally do, I do not end by doing what I do but instead by not doing what I should not do and instead doing something completely different. It's grace in the little things. For the sake of the bigger things.