If you’re still on the hunt for some gift ideas this Christmas season, I have one gift idea that is great for anyone on your list: time and attention. Few gifts are more precious than this. Just ask a child if they remember the toy you gave them for Christmas one year. More often than not, they won’t remember, but they will fondly remember the time and attention you gave them when you made cookies together.
This is the art of undivided attention and sadly, it is slowly fading away with our modern lifestyle of distracted living: smartphones at the dinner tables and computers and iPads glued to our laps as we go about our day. And it’s having devastating effects on our relationships with those around us.
You’ve seen it. I’ve seen it. Parents scrolling on their phones while their children yank on their sleeves begging for just a slice of that attention. Or couples out to dinner; one is laughing at something they just viewed on their phone while the other sits there eating in silence and gazing blankly into the distance.
When we’re not fully present, we weaken our ability to serve. When we’re not fully present, people notice. In my case, it was my doctor.
I recently had a doctor’s appointment and recognized a problem that had nothing to do with my health and everything to do with my sin. Here’s the story:
I’m in the waiting room, waiting to be called back to be seen. Naturally, I am on my phone as I wait. After 15 minutes, the staff calls my name and I go to the next room to wait. I’m back on my phone until the doctor comes in when she starts to ask me some basic questions. I answered and then got back to my phone while she wrote some notes on the computer. She asks another question and I look up from my phone and give her an answer.
Then she asked me another question. But this time, I didn’t hear the whole question. I was distracted. I wasn’t giving her my undivided attention. How did I know? Because she said something. She said kindly, “We have a policy that it’s best for you to be off of your phone while we have a conversation about your care together”. Gulp. Guilty. I felt that twinge of shame and embarrassment, particularly because I liken myself to be someone who is great at giving others my undivided attention, often patting myself on the back with accolades for my efforts. But now, my sinful and prideful heart was exposed and quickly humbled and I saw my need for grace and my need for our Savior to restore me.
I started to think about how Jesus pays attention to me. When we pray, it’s like we’re in a private room with our great King, like we are the most important person there. He’s never half-listening, he’s not even uninterested and He’s definitely not distracted. He cares about what we have to say no matter how ill-equipped we are at communicating with Him. He’s attentive and engaged. When we seek Him, He’s right there to meet us fully. He never comes halfway.
This Christmas, think about who needs to receive this most incredible gift from you. Perhaps it is our kids or our spouses. Maybe it’s the barista or the cashier at the local store. And don’t forget who deserves our utmost attention and devotion–our Lord, Jesus Christ. Let’s give Him our full attention by staying connected, focused, and in His presence every day.
John 15:5 (NIV): “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
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