Pay Attention!

by Joanie Butman

Last week’s blog prompted this question from some friends: “Who wouldn't want to share a room with you?” I could think of a few people in my own family, but embarrassingly, that was my initial thought too. Not because I think I’m a sought-after travel companion, but I just never thought of myself as intimidating in any way. At the time, however, Leslie and I just laughed about it and became too engrossed in our travels to give it further consideration.

Still, her comment haunted me upon my return. I couldn’t imagine what I might have done that was so off-putting. After much reflection, I concluded it wasn’t what I did. It was what I didn’t do; namely, pay attention.I thought back to that pre-departure meeting and remembered being rushed and preoccupied, knowing my husband was waiting for dinner. I was so far from the moment I’m not surprised she was dreading a week with me. John Ortberg comments in his book, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them, “…we speak of paying attention to people; attention is the most valuable currency we have.” This incident was affirmation of that universal truth. I believe the highest compliment you can give anyone is your attention – a timely and excellent reminder in this digital age where it is a challenge soliciting anyone’s undivided attention. 

We all wear many hats: husbands, wives, parents, children, friends, professionals, volunteers, etc. Distraction has become a permanent state with everyone multitasking and rushing about. It’s an American fit-and-run approach to shoving as much as possible into every free moment with most to-do lists longer than Santa’s Naughty and Nice one. Busyness has become a status symbol in our caffeine-fueled society. Just yesterday I had a conversation with someone who mentioned to her doctor that she thought there was something wrong with her because she felt the need to put her feet up during the day. Sadly, she needed the doctor to give her permission to stop and relax without guilt or fear that there was something ‘wrong’ with her.

Conversely, in Europe the opposite is true. They don’t even sell coffee in to-go cups. That would be an anathema to them. People socialize for hours over a cup of coffee. So much so, I often wondered who was working given the crowds lingering in the middle of the day. Even our guides lamented that it was no surprise that their economies were a mess. There must be a happy medium.

Back to my friend. After I wrote down what I determined was the reason for her first impression, I got up enough courage to ask her for an honest answer. Her reply didn’t surprise me in the least. She responded, “When I met you I thought you were aloof.” Bingo!! Need I say more? She is probably wishing I was a bit more aloof now. She went on to say, “Plus, after my comment about not flushing in the night, I thought you looked at me like I was strange.” Ha! For someone with a reputation of blurting out some pretty outrageous things, I didn’t give it a second thought.

As I thought about her aloof comment, it struck me that God probably feels much the same about me at times. This experience prompted me to remember that God, too, longs for our undivided attention above all else. No fancy prayers, self-flagellation, or lists of supplication – just seeking His presence in quiet stillness. Choosing to put our feet up (either literally or mentally) to rest in His peaceful presence is probably the best gift we can offer on any given day – seeking His face, not just his hand. Choosing to listen more and speak less – paying attention to His still small voice whispering...

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.