By Janna Wright, Crosswalk.com
I never fault any friend for needing time to respond to a request to get together, or for accidentally forgetting. Every one of us is busy! We all have many responsibilities, people, obligations, and distractions vying for our time and attention.
In our overwhelming and busy culture, it’s apparent that time is a gift. And although we’re ‘connected’ in more ways than ever before, the gift of undistracted connection (or your full attention) may be one of the greatest gifts of all.
Every person on the planet has the identical number of hours, minutes, and seconds in any given week. And we get to choose where to spend them. To set aside time and forgo distractions to focus on a person directly in front of you is a rare and precious thing.
It’s something Jesus showed us how to do, though; long before the days of self-help books and vlogs. It’s something He values—this connecting of people—and something that benefits both giver and receiver.
As we look at Jesus’s example, we might even call the gift of undistracted attention a sacred opportunity. One He modeled often.
Here are 6 sacred opportunities to give the gift of undistracted attention – as Jesus did.
1. When You See a Need
There are people all around us – in our neighborhoods, our churches, our jobs – who are struggling. They may not tell us with words, but we can see and hear it in their stories.
On one particular journey, Jesus was headed to a festival. Along the way, He passed the pool of Bethesda, a well-known gathering place for people with ailments, hoping to be healed. As Jesus passed by, He noticed a paralyzed man who’d been near the pool for 38 years.
Jesus gave the man His full attention and healed him! (John 5:1-15)
We, too, can cultivate wide-open eyes like Jesus’. Eyes that see people like Jesus does and are quick to offer a listening ear, a sympathetic shoulder, and the simple gift of undivided attention.
You never know what this gift might mean to another soul. It could be just the healing balm they need.
2. When You’re on Your Way Somewhere Else
Sometimes you’ll be going about life, tending your business, following Jesus to the next adventure, and He will point out someone who specifically needs the gift of your attention.
In the middle of His ministry one day, Jesus arrived in a new town. A prominent church leader stopped Him and begged Jesus to come heal his daughter, who was deathly ill. Jesus agreed, and off they went.
It was slow going through the thick crowds.
And then a woman with a blood sickness quietly touched the hem of Jesus’s robe. Jesus halted everything – the conversations, the journey, the crowd – and sought this woman.
He paused to notice her, engage with her, and listen to her story. He showed her how much He loved her by giving precious moments of undistracted attention—smack dab in the middle of His journey someplace else. (Mark 5:21-43)
When you feel the Spirit prompting you to pause in the middle of on-the-way, take the moment. Tune into the need. Enjoy these precious unexpected moments to lavish love on someone by being fully present with them.
3. When Others Think It’s a Waste of Time
Sometimes you will encounter a person who needs what you offer, but people around you, even the well-meaning ones, may not understand. They may try to talk you out of it or convince you there are better ways to spend your time.
Once in the middle of a preaching and healing session, people lined up with their kids, asking Jesus to put His hands on their little children and pray for them. The disciples tried to herd the parents away, correcting them for bothering Jesus.
But Jesus grew indignant! He rebuked the disciples and happily turned His attention to the children, holding them and blessing them. (Mark 10:13-16)
All people are important and precious in God’s sight—and thus worthy of time and attention.
We needn’t hesitate to take a sacred opportunity and give our full attention to people others might deem a waste of time, or not worth the effort.
4. When Someone Asks
Sometimes people know they need help. They have a deep desire to share a burden or let someone else know what they’re facing today. And they ask you to listen.
One day Jesus meets two men. The first is a man with leprosy who asks to be healed. Jesus heals him. Then a Roman centurion meets Jesus and begs Him to heal a beloved servant. Jesus does so with a simple word.
Each of these men specifically ask for Jesus’ help. And Jesus pauses to give full attention and divine healing to each one. (Matthew 8:1-13)
When someone asks for our help, these can be sacred moments to be God’s hands and feet to someone who truly needs it and is brave enough to ask.
5. When Others Don’t Want to Be Bothered
Life is busy, and sometimes it’s easiest for people to go about their business. Sometimes they’re so wrapped up in their own things they can’t be bothered to help. As ambassadors for Jesus, we can cultivate a spirit that sees and helps when others can’t (or won’t).
Jesus was passing through Jericho. As He was leaving, large crowd in tow, blind Bartimaeus heard Jesus was walking by and began to holler, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” People near the poor man tried to shush him, correcting Bartimaeus for yelling and bothering Jesus. But the blind man grew louder until Jesus stopped and restored his sight. (Mark 10:46-52)
Jesus never acted as if anyone were a bother. He showed us how to tune into the people around us.
We needn’t wait for others to get around to helping someday. We must be willing to act when others can’t be bothered.
6. When God Surprises You with the Unexpected
Sometimes God likes to surprise us with people we never expected to want our help.
On His way back to Galilee one day, Jesus travels through Samaria. This was not a place that was friendly to Jews. In fact Jews and Samaritans hated each other with a passion! But Jesus, tired and hungry from the long journey, sits down by the well and sends his disciples to fetch dinner.
A woman comes quietly to the well and…you may know the story. Despite his thirst, hunger, and weariness, Jesus talks with her about her life, and how He satisfies with living water so we never thirst again. (John 4:1-26)
Humanly speaking, the Samaritan woman was not on the “agenda” that day. She was kind of a surprise! Often God may “surprise” us with divine appointments in everyday life, people who are ready for some undistracted attention. I
t’s in these moments we can rely on the Holy Spirit’s strength, setting aside our own needs for a bit in order to offer His comfort and help.
So no matter the life season, the path we take, or what we assume a day might hold, let’s be Christ followers who leave room for sacred opportunities. Let’s cultivate wide open eyes, eagerly looking for ways to offer the gift of undistracted attention, and so be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Janna Wright told her first story—something about kittens and lost mittens—at age two. As an author and speaker she still loves stories, sharing them often in her “biz-nistry,” Grace Thread, and her book, Grace Changes Everything. Janna adores deep talks, the CO mountain air outside her back door, and most of all, helping Christians thrive in the adventure of grace.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/yacobchuk