When it comes to details, little things mean a lot
April 18, 2006
Mom gave me something special the other day. It was a posthumous certificate of appreciation from former U.S. Rep. Bob Clement of Tennessee to my dad, who went to be with the Lord in 1989. It was to recognize his service in the Army during the Korean War and for his “outstanding achievements on behalf of the people of the 5th Congressional District of the great state of Tennessee.”
Being a vet myself, I got quite a kick out of it because it brought back fond memories of dad. I was also grateful that someone had taken the time to recognize dad for his service after all these years. I noticed someone had even taken the time to handwrite his name and the date presented on the certificate. It was then I noticed something that set my mind to thinking.
The certificate was worded with fancy calligraphy and ended with the following: “Presented this the 28th day of May, 2000.” The “May, 2000” was handwritten in a space between the day and what had been the year “19—“ – both in calligraphy. I appreciated someone taking the time to handwrite some of the information, but I wondered why on earth our government used a clearly outdated certificate rather than purchase some updated ones.
Then I discovered something else: Whoever handwrote my dad’s name on the certificate misspelled it. They couldn’t even get his name right. You would think with Americans now having to work five months out of a year just to pay their federal taxes that government leaders and staff would have enough money to buy updated certificates with the correct spellings of the veterans they seek to honor.
I do not mean to sound ungrateful, but the lack of attention to detail weighed on my mind. I began to examine my own responsibilities for which I am accountable to a holy God. We serve an excellent God (Isaiah 12:5), who wants His children to strive for excellence, so much so He is willing to help (Proverbs 8:6). Yet we must do our own part and that’s where attention-to-detail comes into play.
The Pathway staff will attest to the fact that I am a stickler for detail when it comes to reporting the news and even designing each issue of the newspaper. To be honest, it is relatively easy to do because of the passion God has placed in my heart for being a theologian and a Christian journalist. What is not as easy is the attention-to-detail of matters in my life that are not so high profile. Singer Patty Paige once recorded a hit song entitled, Little Things Mean a Lot. Her song revealed how some beau might win her heart, but the title could just as easily fit for a song about attention-to-detail.
One’s willingness to pay attention-to-detail is closely knit to one’s integrity. O.S. Hawkins, president of Guidestone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, captured this perfectly in his book Moral Earthquakes and Secret Faults (Broadman & Holman, 1996). In it he reminds us how to protect ourselves from minor moral lapses that lead to major disaster. Writes Hawkins: “Earthquakes don’t just happen. Instead, they are caused by things beyond our sight, well beneath the surface of the ground. They are preceded by a series of smaller seismic events along the fault line – events beyond our sight that may have been quietly occurring beneath the surface for many years.”
Attention-to-detail is a key ingredient for a person of integrity, for it demonstrates one’s determination to do things right from the ground up. Doing things right are acts of obedience to God and is the path to excellence. Consider Titus 3:8: