“I’m wondering why your truck is sitting here in the left turn lane idling all locked up.” The fresh-faced state patrolman didn’t smile when he said this. Lights flashed from the top of his patrol car as if pointing out my stupidity. I had hopped out of “my truck” (in reality my co-pastor Mike’s) to hang a sign directing people to our churches’ worship gathering and had locked myself out.
“It’s blocking the lane,” he said still not smiling.
I looked at the puffing truck then back at him. Yep. At least it was Sunday morning and the truck was not hindering the hordes from getting to church.
“We’ve called Triple A,” I answered.
So I stood in the median feeling foolish, thinking–for some unknowable reason–of that arcane quote: “For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, for want of a horse the rider was lost.”
Little things make a big difference. Too often when I am doing several things at once and am in a hurry, I don’t pay close enough attention to the little things. Such as the little button that pictured “lock” instead of “unlock.” Such as where I last placed my keys, or wallet, or glasses, or wedding ring, or wife and children. Then I spend eons looking for them.
Since the cop wasn’t very talkative, I asked myself what life would look like if I spent those eons paying attention before instead of after.
Here’s what I heard.
Living spiritually is about paying attention. This is not only stopping to smell the roses. What about the parts of life not so fragrant or obvious? There was a message for me in this day’s foolish frustration. Small things loom large. It may not be the devil who is in the details but rather the very opposite: God’s whisper.
Living spiritually is also about learning what not to give credence to. I locked myself out of Mike’s truck because I gave credence to that voice inside me that said, “hurry, faster.” Most lost relationships, items, or moments in my life are the fruit of listening to false voices that call my attention elsewhere.
Inattentiveness is costly. More than wasting precious time, however, inattentiveness often wastes our very lives. Philosopher and theologian Simone Weil once said, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” Paying attention to people and events, small and large, to life and God, is a gift of ourselves, and sometimes is a gift to ourselves.
AAA rescued Eugene C. Scott from his inattentiveness and the experience actually helped him pay better attention in worship. Not only that but his congregation got a good, well-deserved laugh. Join him in attending to God sightings and telling your stories here and on “Living Spiritually” at facebook.com/livingspiritually. Eugene is co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.