Issuing a February Challenge: Pay Attention, Express Love
The Back Story:
When the 2018 mid-term elections for our nation rolled around, I was blissfully unaware and insulated. Perhaps it was because I had turned in my ballot weeks before. Most assuredly I had another thing on my mind: a 3-week-old baby. Caring for Spencer and my family felt all-consuming that little could distract me. The attention was both a joy-filled and very hard and draining. As I read my newsfeed at the wee hours of the night during feedings, I could capture the energy around the moment, but being just with a newborn, I didn’t fully appreciate the intensity or possible ramifications. I knew I had to be fully attentive to my son and family as they not only needed my love and care, but also they were right in front of me, treasures for me to claim in the here and now. Eventually, I hoped, I would understand more fully how the one-day election would unfold in our lives.
As with any big moment in our common life, there are the intense, surprising and hugely impactful realities that surround it all. In the midst of this are the daily, sometimes mundane, sometimes life and death aspects that we come face to face with quite literally. In these times, when both are ever present, it can be difficult to be fully attentive across the board, and depending on the circumstances, quite impossible.
However, attention is an expression of love so how we offer it says so much.
At the end of this month, Feb. 23-26, the global United Methodist Church, will come together with its representatives at a special General Conference to consider, debate, and potentially vote on the identity and structure of the UMC going forward. This is a momentous occasion. It deserves attention.
At the same time and throughout the month you will certainly have very important things to care for and pay attention to including: children, parents, work, pets, plants, neighbors, and yourself.
The challenge is to be mindful of your attention to the people and/or things in your world with wide-open eyes and hearts for the month. What do you learn on a daily basis about them or you? What joy or hardship comes with this attentiveness? You might even be attentive to the smallest of qualities- colors, moods, vibrancy, or volume. What do you actually experience in a state of careful attention? If a month is too long, try a week.
Then, during the last week of February and Special Session of General Conference on the Way Forward, translate aspects of that attention you offer those closest to you to the work being done within the larger church. If you see the sparkle in your children’s eyes as they wake up from a nap, offer your attention and prayers to what the church is fully awake. If you notice the vibrant blue of the sky, offer your attention and prayers to how vibrancy expresses itself in the church and lives of Jesus followers.
What we discover in our attention might elicit joy and sorrow, questions and confusion, new insight and courage. Just as I recognized about the mid-term elections, one night of voting doesn’t define the end, but simply a stepping-stone into what is next. Another bowl of creamy Mac ‘n Cheese doesn’t define the fullness of my daughter’s diet, but it’s a step toward growth in her life. When we offer our attention to the multitude of life moments, we express love. That love, that attention is vital and informative for our daily lives, important moments, and the way all of that will unfold into the future.