The God Who Wants Our Attention
by Stewart Swain
"Be still, and know that I am God."
As the New Year begins, where have you turned your attention? Perhaps, if you are like me, you are hoping to have a year full of fly fishing, only 75 degree days, and endless filet mignons. Although these things may be the products of a dream, let me instead invite you to something far more dreamy and enjoyable: to know and live in the truth that God pays attention to you! Let me encourage you to this simple biblical truth—we were created to pay attention to God. Maybe you find yourself like this man: “I know God is trying to get my attention. I just haven’t figured out yet for what why He wants my attention. He must want me to do something.” What does God want for you this New Year? In North Texas, there are thousands of churches, thousands of ministries, all providing endless opportunities to serve God, “to do things for God.”
Let’s pause for a moment and Consider our verse from Psalm 46: “Be still, and know that I am God.” No matter how many times you have heard this verse, if you are anything like me, it is still nearly impossible to embody this concept of stillness, If you are anything like me, you have having relegated true stillness to those few annual days at the beach, in the mountains, or wherever else you may find your happy place. Being still and being on Highway I-75 have no place in the same sentence! However, if you are anything like me, you have also found this verse as a tremendous comfort in the midst of tiresome, anxious, and restless moments. If your zip code is busyness and stress (which is all of us if we are honest), then you have probably been at the receiving end of your family and friends’ loving attempts to call you back to our Sovereign God through this powerful verse. I am going to take a leap of faith and say that you are like me; you find yourself occupied with doing things, with being busy. One look at our 21st-century American culture seems to indicate this truth: we are a busy people.
Wayne Muller, in his book Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest, writes, “Whether they are Hispanic or Native American, Caucasian or Black, the more their lives speed up, the more they feel hurt, frightened, and isolated. Despite their good hearts and equally good intentions, their work in the world rarely feels light, pleasant, or healing. Instead, as it all piles endlessly upon itself, the whole experience of being alive begins to melt into one enormous obligation. It becomes the standard greeting everywhere: I am so busy.” Do you find this to be true in your own life? Do you feel bogged down, stressed out, overwhelmed? Our busyness is not just an inconvenience—it is killing us, and as a result, it is killing our families and friends around us.
Instead of covering up these truths with better efforts, let me suggest and invite you to consider a new way of admitting, stopping, and being still before God. As Mark Buchanan says to the man quoted in our first paragraph, “Maybe that’s the problem: you think He wants your attention in order for you to do something. Maybe he just wants your attention. Maybe that’s what God requires most from us: our attention.” Buchanan nails the point of our verse and our God: we have a God who wants our attention.
The whole of Psalm 46 shows us the incredible faithfulness of God. You see, Psalm 46 is not just about meditation; it is about God. As the rest of Psalm 46:10 says, “I (God) will be exalted among the nations, I (God) will be exalted in the earth!” These verses seem to be addressed to the nations. The nations will know as they tumble before God that Yahweh is the true God, the true King. God wants the attention of His people and the gentile nations alike, for they all are subject to Him. How do the still nations ultimately know that He is God? Or asked a different way: How does God get our attention? As humans, our attention spans are repulsively thin and short; so thin and short that in order to get our attention, God had to become a man. God loves us so much that He sent Jesus! We can be still because God was not and still is not. He actively decided to send His Son into the world to live and die for inattentive people, people consumed by doing.
Let us enter into the New Year pursuing the greatest vision of success and joy we could ever obtain—by restfully “being” in our hearts before the Lord. No matter how hard it may be “to be,” we have a God who decided to send His Son before the most hostile chaos of judgment, torture, and death, in order to not be so that we could be with Him forever. If you know Jesus, Christ has taken thought of you, Christ pays attention to you!
God’s grace never stops at us however; it must be extended! To the degree that God has paid attention to us is the degree in which we are called to pay attention to all that God puts in our path, including our families and friends that who are dying for us not to do something for them, but instead just to be with them! As Skip Ryan says, “We are so oriented on a vision of success…always moving on to the next thing. But maybe the next thing is the next minute?” So this New Year, through the transformative work of Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit may we encourage each other to struggle to pay attention in each moment, to live a lifestyle of God-centered stillness in our hearts so that we and others may know God!