It is a command given in several different contexts in the Scriptures. It is a command that makes perfect sense in many of life’s circumstances. However, there are also many times when we don’t see the need, so we don’t heed the command.
Way too many times we are inattentive, distracted and preoccupied. Our recent flight to Portland drew this to my attention. It was a wonderfully uneventful flight. Who wants a memorable event when you are delicately suspended at 35,000 feet above the hard crust of earth beneath you?
There was, however, one incident along the way that I found humorous. Two hours into the flight this announcement was broadcast to the 144 passengers on board…
We have an unattended child up here at the front of the plane. If you are missing a child will you please turn on your overhead call light.
I can imagine the parents’ momentary pause as they considered the embarrassment of responding. But it would only be worse a few minutes later if they tried to remain anonymous. So after a moment, the shame-filled parents pushed the call light and took possession of their wandering child. I’m quite sure they do not remember the flight as uneventful.
For some reason, I find something in that event to be more than humorous. My immediate reaction—shared by the people around me was a chuckle and some brief comments like,
Aren’t you glad your kids are sitting right next to you?
That, too easily, could have been my kid.
The same thing happened to us at the mall, but we found our son before an announcement was broadcast to the whole world.
Here is my additional reflection. It is quite easy to wander away unnoticed—quite easy for others to wander away unnoticed. It is part of the lore of our family: the day we drove off and left our daughter at the oyster farm. We were traveling in two cars. Each carload assumed she was in the other car and the discovery of her absence took place 45 minutes down the road.
How does that happen? Assumptions. Preoccupations. Distractions. Minds on other matters. In both of the accounts of overlooked children, there were no serious, long-term, negative effects. Momentary fright, for sure. Shame and embarrassment. But no permanent scars. That is not always the case, particularly when it comes to wandering from the faith. Most people who embrace the Christian faith are familiar with the words of this old hymn..
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.
Many could also quote from memory this famous passage of Scripture…
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…
So we know about the danger and the fickleness of our hearts, yet we lose our attentiveness. The parents of the little girl didn’t notice her slipping out of the seat in row 25 to get the marker she had dropped. They didn’t observe her moving down the aisle to get something else off the floor near row 19, or the other child who wanted to play in row 12. Little by little she moved away.
It requires great alertness to detect the movements of our hearts toward other things and away from the Lord. The desires of our hearts are sometimes good and we follow those desires. But the desires of our hearts are not always good and we follow those desires as well. Ahab looked at Naboth’s vineyard. David looked at Bathsheba. The crowd looked at the golden calf. Each and all followed their desires. We can’t assume all is well with our souls when we know we are prone to wander. You can’t ignore this fundamental belief of the Christian faith: we are inclined to waywardness, which is why the proverb says,
Above all else, guard your heart…
May I suggest three considerations worthy of at least five minutes of reflection. In order to stay alert you might ask yourself…
1) Am I bothered by my sins? Am I aware of them? Are they glaringly obvious to me?
Am I doing anything about it?
2) Do I feel the need for God’s grace today? Am I aware of desires that need to be curtailed, derailed, crucified? Do I see how easily I could offend my Lord this day? Am I aware of my inner impulses away from God?
3) Am I enjoying God today? Or am I just enjoying the day and the good things He has given me? Am I finding God in the midst of my joys, worries, thoughts, sorrows, routines?
If you take five minutes to seriously ponder those three considerations, I’d like to suggest they may help you pay attention to the most important thing in your life. There are always plenty of other things that get our attention. But does He have our attention? Are we looking at Him? Are we listening for His voice?