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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Spiritual Attention Deficit Disorder

26 Dear child, I want your full attention;
   please do what I show you. 
(Proverbs 24:26)

As a child, my mother would often say to me, "Listen to me!"  It was never said in anger or in a moment of disappointment.  Rather, these words were spoken in a "sing-song" manner, but were very specific - they were intended to get me to REALLY listen to what she was saying.  Why?  Because she knew what she was talking about!  She had walked through much already, learned many lessons, and had the advantage of experience on her side.  She wanted me to pay attention to the things she'd already learned so I did not have to make the same mistakes!  That's love!

She was asking for my "full attention" just as God stands everyday asking for our full attention.  He is asking us to tune up our ears, focus our minds, and direct our heart toward his voice.  Why?  Because he knows what lays ahead, how it will affect us, and what we need to make it through!  That's love!

When God asks for our full attention, he is asking us to "narrow" the field of voices we are paying attention to - those we give careful thought to.  It is a concentration of our faculties that affords him access to ALL of our inner doubts, conflicts, and frustrations.  There, he sorts things out, brings order to chaos, and gives clarity.  When we are so focused on the chaos, we aren't open to the clarity that is at our disposal.  So, God asks for our "attention".

Many of us have "attention deficit disorder" when it comes to listening to God. We spend all kinds of time and energy getting distracted by the loudest voice of the moment - those things that seem to tug at our emotional strings.  Then we wonder why we are in a "muddle" of chaos emotionally!!!  Lesson #1:  God is seldom the loudest voice!

As part of understanding and overcoming our "spiritual attention deficit disorder (SADD, for short), it is important to recognize that we limit our success by focusing on the voice of "emotion".  Emotion is irrational - it seldom is based on fact, but on "feeling".  How the event "makes us feel" becomes predominant, not how it will impact the outcome of our lives if we respond to it in irrational ways.  Lesson #2:  God's voice is rational, focused, and direct!

His voice may not be the loudest, nor may it seem to "stroke us emotionally" just as we would like to be stroked at that moment, but it is reliable.  If we settle into taking time to hear (focusing our attention), then pay attention (doing what we are shown), there is almost always a better emotional outcome for us in the end!  Lesson #3:  God's goal in speaking to us is to keep us safe, give us direction for our present, protecting us into our future!

So, if we find that we struggle from "SADD" behavior, it is time to respond differently when we fell the tug at our heart that begins with the "listen to me" warning.  It is intended to better us, never hurt us.  It is intended to focus us, not leave us in chaos.  It is intended to bring us into partnership with God, not reliance on our emotions or other voices that lead us astray.  We often find that we don't need more clarity - we often need less chaos!