We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified:
“What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
a son of man that you care for him?
You made them a little lower than the angels;
you crowned them with glory and honor
and put everything under their feet.”
In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (New International Version)
In my line of work as a hospital chaplain on a behavioral health unit, I frequently deal with patients who have brain disorders. Many of them, including many in my own family, have Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.). Many people believe this to be a disadvantage.
Yet, I have noticed that since their brain chemistry doesn’t have a good filter for sifting all the stimuli they hear each day, many A.D.D. folks are quite intentional about picking out the voice they want to hear and engaging with it. Whereas others might take this for granted, the patients in my life know the value of creating the skills to pay attention.
The ability to pay attention and listen is necessary for a successful and sustainable Christian life.
The consequence of not developing such competency is that we will drift away – our minds will wander and allow other competing voices to overwhelm the singular voice of Jesus. Taking salvation for granted may subversively set us up for spiritual failure.
Whenever we think we already know about Christ’s person and work, we neglect to really pay attention. Bad idea.
Assuming we are paying attention is not the same thing as actually doing it. Assumptions create a slow drift away from truth. Therefore, we need continual reminders of Christ’s redemptive events.
We must avoid the precarious position of being lost in a sea of competing voices.
We need an intentional plan for paying attention – without assuming we will be focused. Here are a few ways of daily mindfulness so that we will not become S.A.D.D. (Spiritual Attention Deficit Disorder):
- Read Holy Scripture each day with a combination of standing and sitting, reading silently and out loud.
- Hold a cross or other Christian reminder in your hand and feel free to fidget with it.
- Journal your thoughts in a notebook.
- Set a consistent time and place for spiritual reading and prayer.
- Use different translations and versions of the Bible to read.
- Go outside occasionally and pray while walking.
- Focus on your breathing, and consider using breath prayers (i.e., Breathe out: “Speak Lord.” Breathe in: “I am listening.”)
- Drink some coffee, tea, or something soothing, and picture the comfort of Christ coming into your life.
- Be aware of distractions and acknowledge them without judging yourself.
- Observe the Christian Year and the Daily Lectionary.
While some might argue that observing Lectionaries, the Church Calendar, Christian seasons, and worship liturgies are vain repetition, I insist otherwise: We are in grave danger of not paying attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.
Like a beach-goer on the lake drifting on her flotation device far out from shore, we can be unaware of how far we have strayed from our spiritual moorings. If the passion and death of Jesus can only get a shoulder shrug and a “meh” out of us, there is a real problem.
Forming habits of worship, fellowship, service, and piety are essential to deliberately maintaining attention to Jesus. Perhaps if we all felt S.A.D.D. we would be more intentional about grafting reminders and practices into our lives.
God pays attention to us in a special way, different from all other creation. As the only creatures for whom the image and likeness of God resides, we have an innate sense of connection with the divine. Paying attention to things, especially to what Christ has secured for us through the cross, reflects the God who is continually observing humanity.
May your contemplation of Christ and his redemptive events of incarnation, holy life, teaching, death, resurrection, and ascension be always fresh and continually meaningful.
God, as You speak through scriptures, whispers, dreams, circumstances, nature, and people in our lives, help us to pay attention to Your voice. May we hear You in the many ways You communicate. May we pay attention to the important and the urgent and may we choose wisely. May we live attentively today.