I thought I was paying attention

I was sitting on my chair in the kitchen, eating breakfast, catching up on email, and watching my toddler play. He was walking from the family room towards me, smiling, and then turning around again. It was cute. I was happy to see him happy, and glad that he was allowing me to eat peacefully. I thought everything was under control. I thought I was paying attention. But then I turned around.

My son hadn’t just been walking towards me; he had been walking behind me. And he hadn’t been walking empty-handed. Apparently, on each of those walks to and from the family room, there had been Kleenex in his hand. And there, right behind my chair, was the evidence. A mountain of Kleenex he was oh-so-proud to have built.

I guess I hadn’t been paying attention after all.

I wonder how many other times I have missed what has been taking place around me.

I think about this when I think about God. I see Him in lots of places. I look at the oceans and mountains and see the work of His amazing creative hand. I read the stories of Jesus and see the miracle of God’s presence on earth. I hear stories of phenomenal life change and see His Spirit working in people’s lives.

But these are places that are obvious. I don’t really have to pay attention to see God there. I wonder if there are less obvious things that I am missing. I think I am paying attention, but am I really?

Elijah was a prophet in the Old Testament. In a great competition between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, Yahweh proved He was God by sending fire down from heaven when Elijah prayed. God’s hand was obvious. But then, after this incredible event, Elijah’s life was threatened. He was discouraged, ran away, and hid in a cave.

The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” – 2 Kings 19:11-13

It is true that God’s presence can be seen in the mighty and the miraculous. But God wanted Elijah to know that is not the only place He appears. Sometimes God comes in fire, but other times, He comes in a gentle whisper.

Elijah had to pay attention. And so do we.

It is in paying attention that we exercise our faith. Faith would not be faith if it were always obvious. Faith takes looking. It takes trust.

However, it is not only faith that is exercised in paying attention, it is love. When I was on the computer while my son was playing, I could see him, but I was not looking at him. I was not enjoying his company. I was not learning new things about Him. If I never stepped away from my computer to pay attention, real attention, to him, he would grow up feeling under-valued and under-loved.

How often do I step away from my computer, my music, my TV, and my task list to pay attention, real attention, to God? To hear what He says through His Word? To talk to Him about my hopes and fears? To look for what He is doing in the world? To listen to what He is saying to me through His community? To simply enjoy His presence?

I think it’s time I paid more attention. How about you?