Paying Attention

Laura Holmes


I have just spent the last four weeks of school teaching ten-year-olds how to add and subtract fractions. This math skill strikes fear in the hearts of students and teachers alike with good reason; it is rife with opportunities to make a tiny error and mess everything up. My group this time struggled mightily with the concepts, and I found myself saying over and over, “You have to slow down and pay attention. There’s a lot going on in these problems, and you can only do one step at a time. Pay attention. Watch me. Let’s do the first step together. I know you can do this hard thing.” Slowly their skills improved, and I loved watching them gain independence and confidence as they tackled each new fraction aspect. I was so proud of them.

This last week, I ran into some friends who are in the midst of drivers’ education with their first child. We talked about how there are so many things to teach new drivers, so many things for our kids to handle all at once. The conversations in the car can sound like this: “Are you watching the car ahead of you? Are you too close to the middle line? Do you see the man pulling out of his driveway? Did you notice the turn signal on the car two vehicles up? Pay attention. Watch.” 

These parents love their girl, and they want her to be safe, so they’re taking her driving out in the snow, showing her how to avoid a skid, helping her build her awareness. When she finally gets her license, no doubt there will be a Facebook picture of her smiling widely, her new license on display. What will get her there is her parents’ love and commitment to her, their trust in her skills, and her trust in them. 

God loves me. I know this - I mean, this is deep in my bones’ knowledge. I was raised in church. I was in church before I was born, and being a pastor’s kid, church was a fixture for me. As a family, when the church doors were unlocked, we were there - first in, last out. Consequently, my understanding of God and His love for me came to me like learning to speak: simple at first, communicating just the basics. God = Love. God created the world, and He loved me. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. It was easy to love God as a child. I felt God’s love for me all the time. 

As an adult now, I don’t always feel that love, though. Sometimes I’m too caught up in the whirlwind of my life to stop to marvel that God loves me. The clues are everywhere, but I forget to pay attention. I’m not watching or listening; I’m too busy doing. What I should be doing instead is slowing down enough to listen to the cardinal, and look for it. Or stopping for a moment on a cold recess duty day and let the sun warm my face and the cold air sear the insides of my nostrils as I take slow deep breaths. I need to look for reminders of God’s love. A text from a dear friend. A hug. A smile from another Walmart shopper. His love for me is evident; I just need to pay attention.

Other times, I need to stop when faced with what appears to be an insurmountable problem. I’m railing against the problem, and I’m not stopping to listen to God. I need to look to the God who loves me and who knows how this will all work out. I need to trust Him. The very thing I think I have no time for is exactly what I most need to do. I need to sit in silence and not try to fix or solve. Often when I stop to listen, I can feel Him saying, “You have to slow down and pay attention. There’s a lot going on in these problems, and you can only do one step at a time. Pay attention. Watch me. Let’s do the first step together.” 

This Lenten season is an invitation to put down some of the noise and confusion and instead give yourself the space to pay attention and begin to notice all the evidence of God’s love in your life. I know you can do it. 

Laura loves reading, teaching ten-year-olds, discovering unique roadside attractions with her daughters and husband, and Netflix British detective shows. She fancies herself a bit of a sleuth and chooses to call herself “inquisitive” and “investigative” rather than nosy.

Christina Hite