A friend confessed he’d gotten lost recently. It was a nice day and he decided to walk to an appointment several kilometers away. To avoid busy streets he’d cut through a few neighbourhoods and should be there in twenty to thirty minutes.
He set off and twenty minutes later was surprised to discover he was back near his starting point. It hadn’t seemed like he was going in circles, but that must have been the case. Frustrated, he went home and got the car. The destination was much easier to reach when driving.
Later, this friend asked his wife to accompany him so they could figure out where he’d gone wrong. The route confused her, too. Then she saw a sign that would have pointed him in the right direction. “Did you see this sign?” she asked. “It would have helped you”. “I noticed there were signs but didn’t bother to read them,” he replied.
This was more than an amusing story. It was also an example of how easy it is to go astray when I don’t pay attention.
Signs to point me in the right direction are often all around me. The question is, do I pay attention or ignore them, assuming I know how best to reach my destination? Maybe the detours and stumbling blocks are there for a reason.
Even when I have confidence in where I’m going and how to get there sometimes the route is unfamiliar causing confusion. It’s easy to get disoriented and go in circles. The result is a lot of time and effort spent to get nowhere!
The only solution is to pay attention. This is easier said than done, but I have learned it’s the only way to keep on track.
I knew we were in for a tough workout when the instructor said, “Don’t listen to your brain. It will tell you to stop when you feel tired. Listen o your body and don’t stop until it can’t do any more.”
My first thought was of the times I’ve reprimanded for something with the sentence, “Why can’t you just use your brain.” I guess this wasn’t one of those times!
As the class progressed fatigue set in and I realized I had automatically slowed down. The earlier words of the instructor echoed in my mind and I paid more attention to what my body was capable of. With a little conscious effort, I was able to intensify my workout.
What a revelation! I was capable of doing a lot more than I thought I could.
How could this apply to other areas of my life?
I brought to mind times I was hurt by the words or actions of someone I trusted. My brain said to keep my distance so I wouldn’t experience the pain again. My heart told me to offer forgiveness and restore the relationship.
Another example was when I tried something new and didn’t achieve the success others had. My brain told me I couldn’t do it and would just fail again.
The fear of embarrassment held me back until I decided to listen to the positive voice inside. The voice of faith told me the more I worked at this, the better I would get. It was right and again I achieved more than I thought possible.
I have learned life works best when I not only listen to my brain but also pay attention to what my body and my heart are telling me.
I remember when my children were small and I wanted to tell them something important. They’d be focused on other things and not paying attention. In order to have them hear me, I’d start by saying, “Look at me.” Once I had their visual attention they could hear me much better.
Come to think of it, this is still the case in attempting to communicate with anyone distracted by television, cell phones or other electronics. They will respond as if they know what I said but the message is forgotten as soon as I walk away.
It is up to me to ensure my words are heard and understood. I can’t assume this is the case if I haven’t confirmed it.
An example of this came in a conversation in which one man said, “I always listen; I just don’t always hear.” Isn’t that interesting? He would listen to what was said, but if he didn’t think the subject matter was of importance to him, didn’t actually take it in. He could be looking directly at the person speaking and still not be paying attention.
I confess to occasionally allowing my mind to wander when someone is speaking to me. Sometimes I’m formulating a response to them and others I’m going through a mental to-do list. When either of these happens I am not giving the conversation the undivided attention it deserves. It takes a conscious effort to be a good listener.
It’s no accident that the words listen and silent are made up of the same six letters. In order to really listen and hear what is being said, I need to be silent. Not just vocally, but also to silence and focus my mind. Only then will I truly hear you.
Late in the afternoon I decided to make a zucchini chocolate cake for dessert.
I grated the zucchini, put it aside and combined the dry ingredients. Pulling out the mixer I beat butter, sugar and eggs. The dry ingredients needed to be added alternately with milk, so I quickly measured the liquid.
One eye was on the clock because I wanted this to be ready by dinner time. Half the flour mixture was added. While this was blending I greased the bundt pan. Returning to the mixer I added the remaining dry ingredients. I wondered why the mixture was so dry. Then I saw the grated zucchini still waiting to be added. It should have been added before the dry ingredients. I hoped this wouldn’t impact the results.
My husband entered the kitchen as I was pouring the batter into the pan. I placed it in the oven and he pointed to a measuring cup on the other end of the counter and asked, “Was this milk supposed to go in the cake?” Quickly I retrieved the cake from the oven, scraped it out of the pan and back into the mixing bowl. The milk was blended in, the cake pan washed and greased and once again the cake was in the oven.
I was upset with myself for the foolish mistakes I’d made. If I’d been paying attention rather than rushing everything would have gone smoother. All I could do now was hope for the best.
Much to my relief the end result was delicious. I admired this miracle cake that was a success despite the challenges.
If a delicate cake can endure these difficulties and still end up with the desired results, there’s hope for me! God can take my errors, oversights and last minute decisions and work them together for his good. He is in the business of performing miracles. In his hands I know everything will turn out just the way he planned.
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God – those whom he has called according to his plan. (Romans 8:28 GWT)
He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted. (Job 5:9 NIV)