The little things in life are often overlooked – there are no prizes for saying that! But I thought that here I would try to reflect on some of the little things that bring me pleasure (in no particular order!). In this autumn season there is the sunshine on browning leaves with that echo of its summer energy, there are also the small toadstools that flourish on our back lawn and the crows that gather over the house on their way to their roosts in the nearby forest. There are the reflections of buildings and trees on the surface of a still river, those small moments of kindness and thoughtful action that smooth the day’s progress and the discovery that someone else admires that book you love, or that someone else’s first experience of reading almost exactly parallels yours. There are those moments when a piece of music leaps out, a guitar phrase, or a piano chord, or the catch in a singer’s voice in a moving lyric.
Paying attention to the little things is a matter of exactly that, paying attention, taking notice of what is going around you. Attention is an important part of Christian spirituality. We are called by the gracious creator to pay attention to the world and to those that share the world with us. As someone once observed it is very easy to live ‘on’ the world instead of ‘in’ it, completely inured to the passing of the seasons and the changes going on all around us. It is of course possible to look for the big things – but I suggest that God often works in small ways, nudging and challenging but leaving us to work out the detail for ourselves. The book of Proverbs goes as far as challenging the faithful to “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider its ways and be wise” and who could forget the wisdom of Mother Julian of Norwich, this is a long passage from her ‘Showings’ or ‘Revelations of Divine Love’ but it is worth quoting in full;
And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.
In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God keeps it. But what is this to me? Truly, the Creator, the Keeper, the Lover. For until I am substantially “oned” to him, I may never have full rest nor true bliss. That is to say, until I be so fastened to him that there is nothing that is made between my God and me.
This little thing which is created seemed to me as if it could have fallen into nothing because of its littleness. We need to have knowledge of this, so that we may delight in despising as nothing everything created, so as to love and have uncreated God. For this is the reason why our hearts and souls are not in perfect ease, because here we seek rest in this thing which is so little, in which there is no rest, and we do not know our God who is almighty, all wise and all good, for he is true rest. God wishes to be known, and it pleases him that we should rest in him; for everything which is beneath him is not sufficient for us. And this is the reason why no soul is at rest until it has despised as nothing all things which are created. When it by its will has become nothing for love, to have him who is everything, then is it able to receive spiritual rest. (1st Revelation)
Reflecting on the ‘small’ things can be a doorway to bigger things, but it reminds us of the need to be thankful for all the mercies of life, big or small!