“Attention is the beginning of devotion.” Mary Oliver
What is worthy of your attention?
Look at your screen time for this week. What has been getting your attention? What have you been devoted to?
In my life it’s been:
- Exercise (thank you Trainer Road)
- Work (writing this post, for example)
- Entertainment (thank you Jerry Seinfeld and Dude Perfect)
In fact, my daily average of such activities surpassed my sleep a couple days this past week. I got <5 hours sleep and >5 hours of tech focus.
I find myself very much being a Martha. Remember her? She and her sister Mary had Jesus over for a meal. Martha was cooking, cleaning, making sure everyone was comfortable. At one point she asked Jesus if he’d tell her sister, Mary, to get a move on and help clean up.
Jesus turns to Martha and says “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
Martha was devoted to being a great hostess, but she missed out on the greatest Good in order to serve the urgent good. Dishes, food, and logistics crowded her heart while the King of Glory sat in he living room. I find I often have lots of good things I plan on doing for God, and what I really need is just a little help to get all of these super-good things done so God will be impressed with me. It’s odd to say, but it’s true. I’ll say things like “If God would just…”
In order to achieve my urgent tasks I often skip things that are truly important. I forgo taming my heart because my heart is so hungry for accomplishment. I waive feeding my soul because I’m starving for praise and acknowledgement. In these times I give up the important to spend myself on the urgent. I abdicate my attention to the things that demand it loudest and give my devotion to things that will never thank me or pay me back for my efforts. All urgent tasks do is take. Like Martha, I give up being with the King of Glory to do things that might impress him.
So what are you devoted to? Jesus tells us to give him all of our attention. He calls it abiding. (John 15:5) It’s the act of being present. It’s not a quiet time we do in the morning and then check off our list and move on, it’s part of what Paul calls praying without ceasing — it’s giving our attention and our focus to God and returning to that place of focus repeatedly throughout the day. (1 Thess. 5:16-18) We intentionally set our minds on the things of the Spirit because giving our devotion to God gives us life and peace. (Romans 8:5)
So let’s fight the urgent. Let’s take it captive and make it submit to the God of the Infinite. He’s not worried about what we’re going to wear, or what we’ll eat, because he provides even for the sparrows and clothes the flowers of the field. (Matt. 6:26-28) He doesn’t need our attention, he loves us and knows that giving him our attention is the only way we can have hope, joy, and peace.
Be present this week in your attention. Give your attentive devotion to Jesus. It is the good portion, and it will not be taken away from you.