Sunday, October 14, 2018

Your full attention, please

My mother frequently uses the term "Listen to me!" as a way of getting my attention so that I actually stop, pay close attention, and hear out whatever her idea or issue is at the moment. It isn't always at the most convenient moment, nor is it always easy for her to get out whatever it is she wants to share. Yet, it is important enough for her to ask to for me to hear it, so I respond with, "I'm listening, mom", and she begins.  It isn't said in anger or in a moment of disappointment. Rather, these words are usually spoken in a "sing-song" manner, but with very specific intent - they are intended to get me to REALLY listen to what she was saying. Why? Because she knows she has something to say even if it is getting harder for her to say it! She has walked through much already, learned many lessons, and has the advantage of experience on her side, but the disadvantage of advancing age makes it harder and harder for her to actually form those thoughts into sentences. She wants me to pay attention to the things she needs to say - even when it is hard for her to say it - so sometimes she has to show me because the thoughts just won't form well enough to get her point across. We usually figure it out, but sometimes it can be a little more of a challenge than others!

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

God stands everyday asking for our full attention - knowing he has something which may be hard for us to hear, not always easy for us to understand, but important for us to actually listen and respond to. 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! That's compassion and concern in action. When God asks for our full attention, he is asking us to "narrow" the field of voices we are paying attention to - those we are willing to give careful thought to and respond in some manner. It is a concentration of our faculties that affords him access to ALL of our inner doubts, conflicts, and frustrations. In that 'space of concentration', 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 (and sometimes when it comes to listening to others). 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!!! God is seldom the loudest voice! As part of understanding and overcoming our "spiritual attention deficit disorder", it is important to recognize that we limit our success in any matter when we find ourselves focusing on the voice of "emotion". Emotion is irrational - it seldom is based on fact, but rather 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. 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 and consistent. 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! God's goal in speaking to us is to keep us safe, give us direction for our present, protecting us into our future - it is something we 'need' that we cannot gather from any other source! So, if we find that we struggle from 'attention-deficit' type behavior when it comes to hearing God, it is time to respond differently when we fell the tug at our heart that begins with the "listen to me" warning that comes from him. It is intended to better us, never hurt us. It is intended to focus us, not lend to our ever-increasing chaos. It is intended to bring us into partnership with him, not a further reliance on our emotions or all those other voices that lead us astray. We often find that we don't need more clarity - we often need less chaos! Just sayin!