Walking Our Faith: Taking notice
Walking Our Faith
I celebrated my birthday last week, but apart from a lovely dinner with Mom in Florida, I dreaded this birthday. Fifty-seven seemed so much older than 56.
In order to get used to the number, I began telling people I was 57 six months ago. Now that my birthday has passed, I don’t feel a bit older, but I’ve already begun making plans for where I want my life to be when I turn 60.
Constantly looking forward has its benefits, but some practical shortcomings. The other night I woke from a restless sleep as my thoughts ricocheted like an arcade game. Over the internal din, two words arose: Take notice.
Notice what? I asked. I received no answer.
Taking notice had been farthest from my mind since my return to Breckenridge on Monday. Instead I was thinking about renewing the lease on my apartment, though it isn’t due until July, planning a year’s worth of visits to Mom, listening to one audiobook while making a list of others on my iPad, all while sitting on the couch, knitting a coat. This cacophony of thought and activity felt as if I were trying to hold a conversation in Grand Central Station at rush hour.
With the mystery of “take notice” stuck in my mind, I headed to bed with my gratitude journal, which had fallen into disuse over the past few months (After all it’s difficult to notice what you’re grateful for when you’re constantly calculating what you lack). I wrote three things I was grateful for before turning in, then repeated the same in the morning. This simple act grounded my thoughts enough to observe my surroundings. Was this the notice I was meant to take?
In the Bible we discover that God is always taking notice of us. Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Luke 12)
In the 10th chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid … are not two sparrows sold for a penny yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care … even the very hairs of your head are each numbered. So don’t be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows.”
When God takes notice of us, of what we need even to the smallest detail, he is expressing his love for us not in a general way, but with loving specificity.
God does not ask us to earn this love, he gives it freely. But I imagine he gets exasperated when I’m constantly second guessing him by saying, “Yes, I trust you God, but I’m going to work on this back-up plan just in case you fail me.”
And when I’m so busy making plans, I have little energy to notice the blessings I have already received. No time to look up from my phone and notice the towering pines have shed the snow that weighted their branches. No time to notice the subtle changes of God’s creation in our mountain home. If my heart is constantly filled with anxiety, is there room for gratitude?
As I contemplated God’s loving attention compared to my own fear-filled distraction, I wondered if he was also calling me to take notice of not only my life, but of those I come in contact with each day. Those who go unnoticed as I rush from one thing to another. And if so, what would that look like?
Recently, I read a reflection by Father Michael Casey, a monk in Australia. He writes, “Love is: affection, friendship, service, intimacy, forgiveness and acceptance, listening, welcoming, embracing, empathy, recognition — all of these and more. Think how much stronger any exhortation to love is when such words are used instead of lofty abstractions.”
All of these are worthy means to put love into action. But to demonstrate our love for one another, as we are commanded to do, we must first notice one another. How often does the familiar trip to the grocery store find me leaving with bags of food, never having made eye contact or spoken a word to anyone who spends their day working in the store, even though I see them every week?
When we take notice of those around us, we fulfill our Lenten promise to fast, give and pray. By taking notice of others, we fast from our constant preoccupation with our own needs. When we give attention, we notice how we can be of service. When we pause to watch cloud shadows scud across mountain peaks and give thanks, our gratitude becomes a prayer.
When we notice God’s good creation and all who live here, we not only make our community better, we deepen our connection to God, and begin to fathom the depths to which he has taken notice of us.
Suzanne lives in Breckenridge. Her books are available at the Next Page Books and Nosh in Frisco. You can reach Suzanne at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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