My Cost of Paying Attention

Some time ago I picked up a book called “Nudge” by Leonard Sweet. It’s an irritating read. Its one of those books that you can’t read more than a few paragraphs without shifting in your seat because if feels like the very words are crawling beneath your skin. To be candid and crude, the book insults me in all of the best ways. It’s made me ask questions and forced me to give an answer for so many ways that I have lived life passively.

The book, has called me to a higher level of being with its simple thesis to “pay attention!”

Paying attention.That is to become the theme of my 2011, I can feel it already and if only for the reason that putting it here on the blog gives any reader the opportunity to blackmail me with my own declaration. Bring it.

This conviction actually began in October, when I journaled these words:

“Life is lived to the extent that one remains aware. Passivity is simple, but it is never taken to be friends with fullness.” 10.25.10

One week later, as if by divine appointment (?) I would pick up a copy of Nudge. It seems that the art of paying attention intrigues me because I’ve seen God most clearly not when I’m frantically engaged in ministry, or studying till dawn on the narrative structure of the Pentateuch. But rather, I’ve seen God when I’ve stopped long enough to take in the world around me. To consider the people whom I brush shoulders with every day. When I’m living in an “aware” state, it doesn’t matter where I am, but I “see” people for persons, and in the moment where I am acknowledging their humanity, I also experience a “seen-ness” that reassures my own humanity too.

Anyway, to keep from writing a book here, all this came down to 1.5.11 where I journaled, “God! I will pay attention to the “signs” (Speaking figuratively)” Later that night, I recieved a call from my good friend and mentor Scott. He was in town and wanted to connect for a bit. I invited him to stay with me at the “Sabbath Haven” where I’ve been for winter break. Scott and I talked for several hours that night and I shared with him about my recent convictions to be “paying attention to the signs.” Early the next morning I went down to move my car off the street to find it had already been moved for me. Towed actually. Apparently I had parked under a sign that read “Snow Route – No parking 3am – 7am. Dec 1 – March 1”

Yes, I know, I hadn’t payed attention to the signs (Speaking literally).

The irony was so thick I couldn’t be upset. So I boarded the train to go retrieve my car that had been towed so far south into the underbelly of Chicago on 103rd street I didn’t know if perhaps I was in Kansas by the time I reached that awful place of earth knows as Chicago City Impound #3. Once on the train, I opened Nudge, and skimmed to find where I had left off. My eyes must have swelled to the size of saucers when I read the first line beyond where I had last read. Page 112, paragraph 2 reads:

“We pay for everything, and you have to pay to pay attention.”

Insert silence here.

Not only does it cost when we don’t pay attention, it costs to pay attention.

Of course. It costs my agenda. It costs my desire to get my point across first. It costs my thirst to be heard most loudly. It costs… it costs… it costs… How could I have been missing this? It’s not enough to simply want to see God in this world, you have to be willing to pay to see God in this world. To pay attention, requires that I put myself second to the one or ones I’m listening to. Be it putting myself second to you, a man on the street, a woman at the cash register; if I want to see this world, I must pay my own agenda.

“life is lived to the extent that you remain aware.”

BUT it will cost you to become aware.

To receive the gift of seeing God in this world, you must give the gift of paying attention. Or as Sweet writes:

“The best gift you can give someone is your attention. It’s trading your me-ness for their you-ness and their-ness” pg 54 [paraphrased in part]

Pay attention. And be willing to pay, to pay attention. I payed $220 for this blog post….

Posted in Theology.