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Pay Attention! (Proverbs 4:20)

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One of the hardest things about parenting is getting my kids to pay attention. Getting them to remember instructions has been very challenging.

I know they’re capable of it. They have amazing memories…when they want to!

They can remember, down to the penny, how much money I owe them for doing chores.

Or they can remember promises to take them out to eat: “Dad, last month, on Tuesday, you said we couldn’t go on a daddy-daughter date, but we could go in a few weeks. And it’s been a few weeks. And now it's Tuesday. So where are we eating?”

They can be very quick to remember, but what’s frustrating is how quickly they can forget. If I ask them to brush their teeth, take out the trash, or clean up their room, they’ll say, “Ok.” But ten seconds later, I’ll find them wandering the hallway or about to go outside to play with friends, oblivious to what they were supposed to be doing.

Abby and I have tried different techniques to get them to pay attention. “Look at my eyes,” she’ll say. “I need you to respond to me with a ‘Yes, Ma’am.’”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Sometimes that works, and they’ll remember. But often, it doesn’t!

It’s hard for a parent to keep a kid’s attention.

But sometimes it’s hard for you to pay attention, too, right? Have you ever been in a conversation with someone or in a meeting, and people were talking, and you slowly began to zone out? You start thinking about your lunch plans, how the car needs fixing, or about a painful breakup, and you get distracted from the conversation.

It happens to all of us. It also occurs in your relationship with God. Speaking as a father, King Solomon wrote:

My son, pay attention to my words;
listen closely to my sayings (Prov 4:20).

These are words from God to you—pay attention! But paying attention to God’s Word can be challenging, can’t it?

Have you ever read through a chapter of the Bible only to discover that somewhere along the way, you zoned out? If I asked you what you just read, you couldn’t tell me. Your eyes were going line by line, but your mind was someplace far away, and you weren’t paying attention to what you were reading.

It happens to everyone.

So what can you do about it?

Well, don’t feel guilty. You didn’t sin, and you won’t be condemned for it. Suppose you have difficulty paying attention in meetings, in school, or during a conversation. In that case, it might help to do something as simple as getting some extra sleep or exercising every day.

And it could also mean reading the same passage twice. I don’t remember everything that I read. I only remember a small part of it. And that means it might take me a few passes because a message sinks in. I think Solomon understood that. He goes on to write:

Don’t lose sight of them;
keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them,
and health to one’s whole body (Prov 4:21-22).

Don’t lose sight of God’s Word. Reading Scripture once might not be enough. You might have to keep those passages in front of your eyes before you can remember them in your heart.

If you find it hard to pay attention to Scripture, give it another read when you feel less tired. And don’t try to get through a whole chapter. Limiting yourself to reading a single paragraph or verse is okay. Remember it throughout the day. Maybe memorize it. Let it sink in. Keep bringing it to mind so you can listen more closely to what God is saying.

If you’re not a reader, try listening to an audio Bible. Again, please don’t overdo it. And don’t blame yourself if you do.

Remember, God’s Words are life. He wants to bless you through them. The call to pay attention to Scripture isn’t meant to be a punishment or a guilt trip. If you think it is, then you’re not paying attention!


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