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The Art of Being Attentive  //  Confessions of a Chronic Fidgeter

The Art of Being Attentive
 

I am that guy who cannot sit still.

You know me… I’m the one who shakes the pew with the insistent bouncing of my leg.  I fiddle with the door locks while driving.  I’m the only one in the room who doesn’t know that I’m clicking my pen during the meeting, and chances are you either work with someone like me… or you are someone like me.

In ministry, my “hyperactivity” can be a very positive attribute.  I love words like: driven, focused, intense, productive, motivated, determined, and if I’m honest at my next performance review, I’d love to be described with phrases like: future thinking, strategic foresight, revolutionary output, and productivity enhancement.  But it should come as no surprise that all of my inexhaustible activity can also be a hindrance.

Learning to Pay Attention

A few years ago on a retreat, I heard some new language that both attracted and challenged me.  Phrases like: creating space, practicing attentiveness, experiencing rest and awareness. Of course, this retreat had carved out plenty of time to engage in these strange new things, and as a chronic achiever, I gave my full effort to this thing called attentiveness. I can clearly remember praying at the conclusion of an extended time of practicing attentiveness, when God brought to mind a vivid example of my twitchy propensity against attentiveness.  It kept playing over and over again in my mind like a scene from a movie:

On the morning walk across camp to my office I begin thinking of my to-do-list that is sitting on my desk waiting for me.  As I walk, I start updating my list, rearranging and reprioritizing each item.  I begin evaluating the necessary steps for each task.  Then half way to my office, I stop suddenly, like when you wake up from a nap and it takes a moment to remember where you are.  My to-do-list is gone and I begin noticing things around me… people out for a walk, brilliant white clouds, deer in the field across the road, someone sitting on a nearby bench praying, or the cool breeze contrasting the bright morning sun.

It struck me that I’m the kind of guy that regularly runs around busy, doing lots of things for God.  Good things.  Things that bring Him glory and proclaim the good news.  But I believe God was showing me that He desires me to be the kind of guy that can also be attentive to who He is and what He is doing around me, desires me to be the kind of guy that will enjoy simply being with Him present in the moment.

Since that retreat, I’ve tried to be more attentive to my surroundings and more aware of God’s presence in each moment. Can I be honest? It’s been tough. It takes a lot of practice, but I’m learning that it is through attentiveness that we begin to know God in ways that we just can’t when we’re running around getting a lot of things done.

  • We see the beauty of creation… instead of walking by it occupied with tasks on a piece of paper.
  • We encounter people… instead of steering around them to get to our destination.
  • We make connections between God’s Word and the things around us… instead of strategizing how to do more for God.

The spiritual practice of attentiveness creates a sharpness of being.

Esther De Waal in her book Lost in Wonder quotes Thomas Merton who said, “God is looking for the whole self, the fullness of all our senses, not the truncation of self.”

It is okay to be a driven, hyperactive, strategic person who enjoys checking tasks off their list. But God is not impressed by how much we can get done, but our faithful walking with Him as we do it. He’s glorified when we employ all our senses in a balanced approach of getting things done and enjoying His presence along the way. Doing and Being.

I encourage to you carve out some time today to practice being attentive.  Pay attention to your morning commute.  Look for opportunities to impact lives, enjoy Creation and connect to Scripture.

 

Ben Myers
Camp Director at Arrowhead Bible Camp
Ben Myers has served as the Camp Director at Arrowhead Bible Camp in Brackney, PA for the past 13 years. Arrowhead is a ministry committed to discipleship through its programs for adults with developmental disabilities, missions opportunities for youth groups, and mentoring of High School and College students. Ben also teaches as an adjunct professor at Lancaster Bible College and holds degrees from Cairn University and Baptist Bible Seminary.
  1. Rob01-17-12

    Great thoughts Ben. I have often thought that being is more important than doing, only to then forget that truth.

  2. Dan01-19-12

    Great thoughts Ben!