Attentiveness takes time and intentionality. Attentiveness with intentional action is what brings healing to the earth, our bodies, our minds, our souls, and our relationships. In my attempts at building this character trait in my life, I have discovered that attentiveness with intentionality can take a lot more effort than one might desire. Simply staying busy is easier.
Busyness is fast and fleeting. Running from work to event; scanning emails, Facebook, Twitter accounts, and blogs, while trying to sneak in housework and meals. All of this keeps us busy. But in our busyness, are we attentive to our world and the people in it? Are we being intentional about how we live?
Attentiveness requires that we slow down and observe our surroundings. Attentiveness requires that we be still and listen for God’s voice through the thick of sound waves that come at us from all angles of the world. We must ask these questions: How do I care for my family, the earth, my soul? What is the condition of my spiritual life? Who is my neighbor?
As I personally examine these questions, I come up with so many areas that I want to be intentional about. From the simplest to the more complex, it begins in my everyday routine. While grocery shopping, choosing local cherry tomatoes over those grown in Mexico saves 400 gallons of gasoline. Just by slowing down and reading labels, I can buy local produce instead of imported and help heal our earth.
I can be attentive to my husband, not only by looking up, but by getting up from the pile of laundry when he enters the room from work, I can greet him in a way that shows him love, respect, and honor instead of dismissing him like a hired servant.
By choosing to give up something I want (like shopping or Starbucks) so that someone else can have something they need I am learning that I consume out of a place of scarcity and lack but I give out of the plenty of what only God can provide. I have found freedom in giving up things and have received so much more than I have given.
When morning comes and my computer beckons me over my Bible, I can be intentional about the healing of my soul to learn more each day of who God created me to be in relationship with Him and to the world I live in. When I am attentive and open, not rushing, I can be transformed by His word and the power of His Spirit. Without this time, I serve as a hollow shell of a flawed human, unable to truly love the same way Jesus loves me.
Do I do attentiveness and intentionality well? Do I even get a B- if you were grading me? Probably not. I am on the same spiritual journey as anyone else; which means that I am giving this my best shot. Some days I succeed and others, I fail miserably.
I believe it is our fear of failure and drive to please others over God that leads us down the road of busyness opposed to attentive and intentional living. I am afraid that if I try attentiveness and fail, I will not be able to live with myself. So I continue life in a flurry of activity instead, never facing the needs of the world, the people around me, the church, or my own soul.
Thomas Merton, a Trappist Monk said it best, “Being attentive…requires a lot of courage and know-how.” As Thomas points out, attentiveness is work and it take courage, but isn’t that better than having a life of attention deficit?