For Want of a Spreadsheet

It was a Friday evening and I was staring between two spreadsheets.

It was like one of those children’s picture challenges where you’re supposed to find what’s different, only in this case the spreadsheets were supposed to match. Trying to find the difference was anything but fun.

“Is this really all I have to show for a week of late nights and back-to-back meetings? Another week gone, all those moments I can never get back, and two mismatched spreadsheets is all I have to show for it!”

I took a break, donned my raincoat, and headed out the door. My dog sniffed happily among the weeds while I listened to the rain pounding out my question, God what am I doing here?

Perhaps you’ve asked that question, too. Maybe for you it wasn’t spreadsheets. Maybe it was dirty diapers. Or a double shift on your feet. Or five commitments you had to turn down because five other ones were clamoring for your attention.  You blinked and the time was gone and now you’re wondering: Am I really doing the right thing? Is this the best use of my time? God, am I supposed to be here?

Every fall when the geese fly over my feet get a little itchy. As though they want to migrate, too. It’s my time of year to pause and ask God if I have my priorities rights, if I’m leaning in close enough to hear Him, if I’m in the right place or if, just maybe, he might be calling me to something new.

But migration isn’t the only flavor of fall. For every being winging south, there is another staying put, digging in with careful preparations for the long winter ahead.

Sometimes fall is about fleeing. And sometimes it’s about painstakingly detailed preparations.

As I pounded out my questions with the rain and my dog and my God, the answer that came to me was not one I expected. What came to mind was this ancient ditty, which appears in various forms through several centuries. Perhaps you have heard it:

For want of a nail a shoe was lost.

For want of a shoe the horse was lost.

For want of a horse the rider was lost.

For want of a rider the message was lost.

For want of a message the battle was lost.

For want of a battle the war was lost.

All for want of a horseshoe nail.

Details do matter. The insignificant is, in fact, significant. We may not see the war, but the nail that we drive in just might be the linchpin that wins it.

The Bible urges us that whatever we do, we should work at it with our whole heart, as though we are working for the Lord (Colossians 3:23). It also says that whatever our hand finds to do, we are to do it with all our might (Ecclesiastes 9:10). I think that includes spreadsheets, and dirty diapers, and whatever you’re facing right now.

There are indeed times where we need to re-prioritize, where God may be telling us to migrate to a new place. But many times we are called to do our best right where we are.

The spreadsheets I work on today will lead to impacts down the road. In my case, this information is needed to help manage an event where many peoples could receive information that is helpful to them. I may see some of the results of these mundane details. But many results I hope and pray will be so far beyond my limited scope that I will never see them.

I don’t see the whole battle plan, but God does. And He put me right here and you right there for a reason.

God is looking for excellence in His followers. He is looking for us to do the best we can, where we are, with whatever we have.

If I have anything to say about it, we aren’t losing this war just for want of a spreadsheet.

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Janet Beagle, Ph.D. serves as director of graduate programs for Purdue University’s College of Engineering and is a writer, a Bible study teacher, and a student of God’s word. In her spare time, she likes to eat other people’s cooking and hike with her two- and four-footed friends. Read more of Janet’s Christian reflections at www.mustardpatch.org

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