Disclaimer: I am not good at what I am writing about today. Often when I speak, teach or write, people tell me, You were speaking right to me. I tell them No, I’m preaching to myself. I’m the one who needs to hear this the most. This is totally true today; I’m just preaching to myself.
I used to love Texas Rangers baseball in the evenings. The other day, I realized I had not watched a game yet this season. Then, I realized I’d had games on, I just never look up from my phone anymore. To watch baseball, you have to look up. When I have looked up, you know what I see right behind the batter? People on their phones. In my mind, I judge them. They are right there on the first row at a major league baseball game. Why are they looking at their phones? Then of course I promptly look down at mine.
I’m a great multi-tasker but I need to stop. As I study ancient Spiritual Disciplines I see that multitasking is not one of the ways spiritual people get closer to God. Rather it is the opposite – focusing fully on one act at a time – that increases the chance for God to reach us.
If you look at the practices of monks living in monasteries, for example, often speaking is eliminated for parts of their days. Chores are assigned. The monks are coached in bringing full focus to the task at hand. Peeling potatoes? Just peel. Tilling the earth? Just till. Their focus and attention is a part of the spiritual discipline, the daily practice of what is required in order to really see the richness of life and the presence of God.
On my better days, I do only one thing at a time. Just sweep the porch. Just fold the laundry. Just write. Just breathe. Just be. I try to walk more often with music than with podcasts. Sometimes I even manage silence while walking.
Simone Weil, a French mystic, activist and philosopher wrote, Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity. She wrote this in the 1940s. Oh my, what would she think about our attention spans now?
Imagine this: Your attention as a rare generous gift to give your spouse, your friends, your child or grandchild. Imagine giving your full attention to exercise, nature, to God’s presence.
One of the reasons I like sunrises and sunsets is because they require my full attention plus patience. I feel like God whispers, “Just watch, wait for it…wait for it…” The skies change minute by minute in those Holy moments. Looking up is required.
George Bernanos wrote, Grace is everywhere, which is also translated All is grace. (Diary of a Country Priest) I know this is true. I vow to pay closer attention.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, breast cancer survivor and chronic multitasker.
P.S. I am having fun sharing extra content each month with my Inner Circle subscribers. On the first of each month, I share with you a different top ten list that no one else sees. Plus, I share some pictures, news about my family and prayer requests. I just finished the list for July 1, which includes exciting breaking news and this: The Top Ten Things Your Pastor Wants You to Know But Is Too Polite to Tell You. Sign up at www.drcindyryanblog.com/circle by June 28 to get it.