Pay Attention

I recently stumbled on a poem written by Andrew Peterson. These were its first lines:


Pay attention to the little things.

Pay attention to the big things too,

Because both are easy enough to miss,

And are one and the same more often than not


This hits me hard in all kinds of ways. First, because if my digital wellness app on my phone is correct, and I fear it is, I did not pay very much attention to the world around me last year. Hours of mindless doom scrolling took me away, of my own accord, from who and what mattered the most. Second, because even when I do pay attention, I often judge wrong what to pay attention to. I try hard to show up for the “big things”, and disregard the “little things” as unimportant. Why is this wrong? Because the importance of a moment isn’t determined by how picture worthy or expensive it is, but by how well I loved those around me in that moment. Did I offer a listening ear to those who desperately needed to be heard? Was my friendship unconditional? Did I welcome those gifting me safety and love? Did I do what I could do to make the world a better place? To a great extent, moments are judged by the quality of my presence. And when I am distracted, that quality greatly suffers.


For that, I need to repent. As Emily Bellinger puts it in her “Liturgy for wasted moments”, I confess the following:


Once again I have chosen distraction

that depletes rather than satisfies,

that numbs rather than renews.

Forgive me, O God, for neglecting

the better and higher things to which

you have called me.


However, a new year is before me. A clean slate. A new batch of hours to start over, not out of my own will and strength, but with my Savior. Like the ancient prayer says, I can exclaim:


O Lord, forgive what I have been,

sanctify what I am,

and order what I shall be.


God wants and can do with and through me what I am unable to do on my own. That’s the good news of the Gospel! And, believe it or not, it is often thanks to the heartache and acknowledgment of my failures that such Gospel can do its work. Check out how Andrew Peterson finishes his poem:


Most blessings sprout not from the plans

We make, but from the soil of their sad ruin.

Watch their slow, unstoppable unraveling,

Their disassembly, the final shudder, and

Their collapse, and the dust cloud that follows.

Pay attention then to the way your heart

Breathes a sigh of relief when the work

That was never yours anyway is lifted

From your tired hands. Pay attention,

When you clean up the mess, to the treasure

That the wreck unearthed, and give thanks

For your folly and God’s favor.


Friend, let’s pay attention. God is at work in and through you. Not because you are qualified, but because He is qualifying you.

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