A circle of friends on pilgrimage for the love of God

Attending to Jesus

Tokyo (image by Giuseppe Milo, Creative Commons)

“Pay attention!” the teacher cried out as I gazed off into space.

I was paying attention, but not to her. I was puzzling over whether or not I was from this planet or was merely visiting among these humans.

Over the years, I’ve come to think children are quite good at paying attention, but not necessarily to adults. They actually see and hear the world that most adults no longer see or see dimly. They still carry the wonder of existence burning alive within them.

When Jesus walked the earth, he was often healing blind eyes and opening deaf ears. In past generations, blindness and deafness had been signs of judgment for idolatry. The act of turning away from the Creator and worshipping the creation, deadened the senses and the heart to truly see and hear and know the love of God. Without the love and life of God burning in the soul, humans and other aspects of creation became objects of consumption.

Sadly, we still have a tendency to reduce people and places and all the wonders of this world into objects for our own pleasures while failing to behold the grandeur all around us. First and foremost, creation (which includes everything from planets to people to photons) bears witness to the Glory of God.

We are invited to pay attention to this world of witness. Sometimes it is easier to pay attention to the way people and places let us down. It is easy to pay attention to all the wrongs that inconvenience our lives. It is easy to pay attention to the mistakes of others while looking blindly past our own failings.

We might do well to ask Jesus to open our own blind eyes and dear ears. Lent is one season when we seek to practice the habit of looking to Jesus. As Ole Hallesby says, “To pray is to open our hearts to Jesus.” We turn. We pray. We wait. We watch.

We are learning to “pay attention” to Jesus Christ.

Lent doesn’t mean that we stop working, stop raising children, stop paying bills. We still live in the struggles and distractions of daily living. We might simply ask Jesus to open our eyes to His presence in the middle of the moments in our day. We might simply pause over some verse of Scripture or some prayer of confession.

Most merciful God,we confess
that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.[1]

We pause. Lord, how have I sinned against you. What thoughts, what words, what deeds failed in love? We wait. We listen. The Spirit can help us to remember how we turned away from God and His love. He can reveal patterns of thinking, speaking, and acting that move us away from His love. Lord have mercy.

This posture of opening our hearts to Jesus makes room for us to behold His gentle presence around and within us. Yes, He is free to use dramatic crisis like speaking to Moses through a burning bush or knocking Paul to the ground, but He can also walk alongside as we wander toward Emmaus.

Repentance can involve great tears and a great struggle of the soul, but it can also look like the person turning quietly toward Jesus and listening, watching, and waiting throughout the day. In some small measure, we turn toward the Lord when we eat. We pause and offer thanks for the food, for the moment, for the company.

This simple pattern of turning and offering thanks can become part of the rhythm of each moment of our day: whether we are chasing children or projects or sitting in a quiet chapel. A short pause. A quiet thanks. A simple turning.

We may begin to see people as created by God, created in love, created for His glory. I might offer thanks for the officer who hands me a speeding ticket or the server who hands me a drink. Each person, each place, each thing bears witness to the glory of God.

Jesus is teaching us by His Spirit and in His Word to see and hear, to really see and hear the heavens declaring the glory of God and the skies proclaiming the work of His hands. Throughout the day, we are simply joining a chorus already in motion, a song that is already being sung.

This gentle turning to the Lord as we move through the day is not limited to things, it is about people and conversations and books and even buildings. All creation is bearing witness even the creations of humans. Simultaneously, all creation can become an idol in place of God. Part of the healing work of redemption is to deliver us from enslaving idolatries to eyes that see and ears that hear a world created in and for the glory of God.

Repentance is a daily habit to returning. It is spiritual medicine for the soul. We are returning to Jesus, to the author and finisher of our faith. In this turning to Jesus, we are lifting up moments, people, joys, and sorrows to Him in worship and surrender.

There is a long habit in the church of ending the day by lifting up the moments of that day before the Lord: rehearsing special joys as well as pains, personal struggles as well as success. The day is filled with so many moments that we could spend a long time rehearsing the day. Then again, we might pause over two or three moments that stand out. Both good and bad. It might be an argument, an angry thought, a special conversation, a beautiful picture, a great quote, a song we loved, or any number of items. We pause over each one, remembering it in the presence of the Lord. Thanking Him. Confessing our sin. Pausing and listening.

It might be that we see these moments through a new light. That we see the person, the event, the quote with greater clarity. We might see or hear it in light of Christ, of Scripture, of the church. We may even might sense a call to respond.

With this in mind, I return to Ole Hallesby’s quote, “To pray is to open our hearts to Jesus.”

May we begin our days and end our days by opening our hearts to Jesus. And maybe, we’ll begin to sense the promptings of His Spirit from moment to moment each day, and all of life will become an opening to Jesus.

[1] The Episcopal Church, The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church (New York: Church Publishing Incorporated, 2007), 79.


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