Deborah and I rolled through Walmart together recently. She was so excited to be there, and soaked up any interesting experience she could find. She exclaimed over the beautiful fish and lamented at the poor lobsters whose claws were rubberbanded shut. I, on the other hand, was very much lost in my thoughts and the misery of my cold. Toward the end of our shopping excursion, my attention was finally drawn to Deborah, who was acting up in the veggie section. I realized in a flash that the quality time I had meant to spend with DJ had been lost in my thoughts as well, and that she had noticed.
Defined as "giving care or attention; watchfulness," attentiveness seems to have a greater meaning than I initially attributed. Here is the meaning from the Online Etymology Dictionary:
1340, from O.Fr. diligence "attention, care," from L. diligentia "attentiveness, carefulness," from diligentem (nom. diligens) "attentive, assiduous, careful," originally prp. of diligere "value highly, love, choose," from dis- "apart" + legere "choose, gather" (see lecture). Sense evolved from "love" through "attentiveness" to "carefulness" to "steady effort."
I think of my military days of "ATTEN - TION!" and it takes on a more dramatic connotation. It can be practiced, but is not useful unless it is acted on. For example, I may notce this mispelled word, but if I am too lazy to fix it, then I have not used my attentiveness for good. ;-)
There is an aspect of preventiveness to the word attentive, which applies to all facets of life. Being attentive can mean the difference between life and death, between happiness and despair, between marriage and divorce. Attentiveness to the picture your child painted could prevent the world from being deprived of a great artist :-) It may also prevent a host of emotional difficulties that an emotionally ignored child may face for years to come.
Attentiveness is a quality which has an outward focus, like most character qualities. The etymology above states that the sense of it originated with "love" and evolved into "steady effort". This is fascinating in that the origin of this word is tied to the greatest Christian virtue of all.
"4Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." (1 Cor. 13)
I think that attentiveness must hover near the eyes of the body of Christ, urging them to see. Sometimes it takes a great effort to really focus on the needs of others; to draw ones attention away from self and into the needs around them. Christ epitomized this great effort in Gethsemane, when He asked God if the cup of His suffering could pass away..."Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." (Luke 22:42)
Paul also spoke of this effort in Philippians 2...
"4Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
How can we emulate such devotion? Certainly it is unlikely we will have to choose death in order to meet the needs of those around us. But Jesus wants us to have that same mind that He has. The mind which is able to focus steadily away from self and to be obedient unto the most difficult of callings...even death. But the needs that we have to meet usually just mean one thing...that we may not be able to do the things that we want to do. In motherspeak: read a story instead of cleaning the floor; fix a meal instead of reading a book; involve toddlers in the slow process of getting the laundry sorted instead of whipping through it yourself (which is so much faster and easier!); talk to the daughter who is shopping with you instead of thinking about your next project; focus on the husbands needs for a time in the evenings instead of working, reading or sleeping.
It is not possible to have such a mind unless you are present in the body of Christ. After all, His mind is in His body :-) I believe one of the most successful ploys of the enemy is to cause believers in Jesus Christ to think they are separate from Christ, effectively cutting them off from having the mind of Christ.
I ponder all of this today because I am the queen of distraction! This is a fruit that those around me need to eat more of (I know, attentiveness is not listed in Galatians 5, but I am certain it must be a genus of the family of love :-))
Lord, I turn my face to your sunshine this morning, wanting to grow! Help me not to be distracted....