The greatest gift in today’s world
“I feel like I’m having a conversation here with two people!” she said. I was doing it again. Sending a text message to a friend when my wife was talking to me. Been there? In today’s world, one of the greatest gifts we can give other people is our undivided attention.
The apps on your phone are literally designed to try and captivate your attention for as long as possible. It’s like they are constantly screaming out to you, “Look at me! Touch me! Scroll me!” And if we are not diligent, they will have a radical effect on our attention. In his book Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport writes, “The urge to check Twitter or refresh Reddit becomes a nervous twitch that shatters uninterrupted time into shards too small to support the presence necessary for an intentional life.”
I heard a story about a grandmother who traveled from out of town to visit her grandkids during the holidays. The first morning after they had arrived, she spent at least an hour sitting on her phone scrolling, ignoring everyone else around her. At one point her grandson came up to her to ask her a question, but she didn’t even hear him. Thankfully, someone else called her out and she apologized and put her phone down!
As we think about what it means to be For the One—an initiative inviting us to be prayerfully investing in one person in our lives who doesn’t currently know Jesus—one of the greatest gifts we can give to our friends is our undivided attention.
There’s a story in the gospels about Jesus rushing off to heal the dying daughter of a very important community leader. (Pastor Mark is going to be preaching on this story tomorrow, and you’ll love what he has to say). As he is on his way, accompanying the father of this girl, surrounded by a large crowd, he feels someone touch his clothing and power go out from him. Now, Jesus could have carried on, knowing that this young girl is about to die and he needs to get there quickly, but, instead, he stops.
“Jesus said, ‘Who was it that touched me?’” (Luke 8:45) The disciples try to jostle him along, recognizing that Jesus needs to hustle in order to heal the dying girl. But Jesus waits. And out of the crowd comes a woman, fearful and trembling, who falls down before Jesus. And then, Mark’s gospel records, she “told him the whole truth.” (Mark 5:33b)
In this moment, Jesus turned his undivided attention upon a woman, who he had already healed of her sickness (she was touching his clothing because she believed it would heal her), and through giving her his undivided attention, I believe, he brought a deeper, more profound level of healing to that woman’s life. Even in the midst of many competing distractions, Jesus gave undivided attention to one person.
How about you? When you are talking to someone, are you distracted? Are you overtly, or covertly, checking your phone? Are you giving them your undivided attention?
As we seek to continue to exalt others and be for those who don’t yet know Jesus, perhaps one of the most important things we can do is be wholly present to them, giving them our undivided attention. Perhaps you could try that out today and see what sort of impact it might have on those Jesus has called you to love?
See you tomorrow!