by Alexa Hess
You’re sitting in your fourth-grade classroom, trying to listen to your teacher teach about history. As your mind starts to wander, the voice of your teacher begins to fade into the background, like a radio playing in the distance. Your gaze slowly travels to a window nearby; you begin to look at the trees blowing in the wind. You imagine that they are dancing to a silent song, swaying back and forth to the beat.
Suddenly you hear your teacher call your name, and you are jolted from your imagination. Your teacher asks you a question about the lesson, and you begin to break out in a cold sweat.
Your classmates begin to giggle around you. Your teacher folds her arms and narrows her eyes. Looks like someone wasn’t paying attention, she says. Your face reddens as you sink down in your seat, hoping she moves on to someone else.
I’m sure most of us have had experiences like this. Even if we have never been called out in a classroom, there are times when we are talking with a person and realize we have failed to actually listen to what they are saying, or maybe we try to “multitask” by talking to someone while also being on our phones.
Let’s be honest—it is hard to pay attention in our world today. We have so much technology vying for our attention, and it’s as if our phones are calling out to us in our pockets. When we give in to distractions, we miss what is happening around us. We fail to be present with others, and we prevent ourselves from taking in the information we need to learn and grow. Distraction is inevitable in this world. There will always be something or someone needing our attention. But just because distraction is normal doesn’t mean we can’t strive to pay attention.
During His ministry, Jesus regularly called people to pay attention. He says in Mark 4:24,“Pay attention to what you hear.” and in Matthew 6:26, “Consider the birds of the sky.” In essence, Jesus is saying: “Listen, look! Don’t miss this truth that I am trying to tell you.” Like many people during Jesus’s time on earth, Jesus’s disciples struggled to truly pay attention. After one instance when the disciples failed to understand Jesus’s teaching, He said to them, “Do you have eyes and not see; do you have ears and not hear?” (Mark 8:18).
While the disciples struggled to pay attention to the truths of Jesus’s teaching, Jesus gave them grace and never gave up on them. Jesus gives us His grace for our distractions as well. He does not cross His arms or narrow His eyes at us. He guides us to focus with words of grace and love. Whether you are a mother who struggles to pay attention because of the wiggling child in your arms, or a person who experiences the difficulty of an attention deficit disorder, Jesus understands, and He gives you His grace.
Christ’s grace covers our inclination for distraction, but His grace also gifts us with new eyes and ears. Jesus gives us the gift of attention. Jesus opens our blind eyes and ears to the truth of the gospel. Now, we live with spiritual eyes and ears. By His grace and through the power of the Spirit, we see everything clearly, either now or in the eternity to come. Every day the Spirit continues to help us see and hear as He illuminates God’s Word so we can grow in our knowledge of God and His Word. The Spirit deepens the truth of the gospel as He helps us examine the world around us and interpret our reality in light of the gospel. Yet, we can forget to lean into the power of the Spirit and allow the noise of the world to distract us.
God has so many truths to teach us if we only take the time to pay attention. If we want to have eyes to see and ears to hear, we must allow ourselves to stop, slow down, and meditate. When was the last time you sat in silence? When was the last time you went for a walk and didn’t bring your phone or music? God is teaching us valuable spiritual truths every day through His Word, our experiences, and others. We only need to use the eyes and ears that He has given us.
God is graciously redirecting us, through the power of the Spirit, away from the distractions of our day so we can pay attention to His voice. The choice is ours to make: Will we allow the noise of this world to cause us to miss what God is trying to teach us? Or will we have eyes to see and ears to hear the glorious truths God has for us?