Growing up, I always craved my father’s attention. Climbing trees, riding bikes, building things—all of these were done with the end goal of putting on a show for him. “Dad, Dad, watch this!” I’d say.
He would reply, “Go ahead, I’m watching.” His affection and his approval meant the world to me, and most often these were both communicated through the simple act of watching what I was doing.
I believe we all long for the attention of others because somehow we feel that in being seen, we will prove our self-worth. For, as any collector will tell you, things are only worth what people will pay for them. We long to stand on the world’s auction block and hear the price rising as our value is seen. But the loudest voice is God’s. He bought a solo show with His life.
The Psalms contain cry after cry for the attention of God. He responds with affirmation that He is near and His eyes are watching. It seems that many people, Christians included, do not feel God watching them as they struggle, sin or succeed. But the Bible communicates this truth clearly: God loves us, and He sees us, as David writes to God in Psalm 139: “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
[THROWING TEMPER TANTRUMS]
When we were kids, we sometimes did some pretty strange things to get attention, such as being rude or messy or acting younger than our age. Our parents knew if we just wanted attention, and they knew if it was more than that. I still throw the same temper tantrums for God sometimes, refusing to read the Bible or pray when I know He is right there ready to be with me. He sees me, and yet I convince myself that He can’t, like some infant in a game of peek-a-boo. It’s my eyes that are closed, not His. But the good news is, He knows I’m just crying out for His attention, and He’s eager to give it.
In the beginning, God created everything, and He saw that it was good. As the centerpiece to His creation, Adam and Eve enjoyed God’s intimate company, walking and talking with Him in the Garden of Eden. They were naked and unashamed. But in a moment they thought God wasn’t looking, they sinned against Him.
“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’ And he said, ‘Who told you that you were naked?’” (Genesis 3:8-11).
Suddenly God’s gaze was more painful than pleasurable. On one hand, they were created to be with Him. On the other hand, they suddenly felt naked and inadequate. His attention became a double-edged sword.
After Cain killed his brother, God asked him, “Where is your brother Abel?” Cain replied that he didn’t know. God asked, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse …” (Genesis 4:9-11).
Despite the fact that God seems far away at times, I can always feel the heat of His eyes on me when I sin intentionally. Like Cain, I am often tempted to cover my faults when His attention is on me. The light He shines in my darkness is penetrating and painful, but perhaps even harder to accept than His discipline is the great mercy He showers.
Reality TV is addictive to many of us because we know that the people on the screen are real men and women who are being watched by the world. Somehow this is exciting, even if the things they do aren’t that impressive. We relate to their humanity and are jealous of their fame.
Although quite warped and often misdirected, our desire for fame could very well be a longing to capture the attention of God. However, the kind of entertainment that He enjoys most is the kind that we often think no one will ever see.
But in the end, “the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:37-40).
As Shakespeare said, the world is a stage. Somehow we just need to stop playing to the populace and start entertaining angels. We’ve already got God’s attention, now on with the show.
[BLESSED WITH ATTENTION]
The Beatitudes are an affirmation by God Himself that He sees us in our pain and struggle. He promises His favor to those who are faithful, saying that they are blessed. With each blessing, God is pointing to an individual in the crowd and looking them in the eye, giving them His attention. He sees our pain and takes it as His own.
I can remember taking road trips with my family, how my dad would drive at night as everyone would start to doze off. On occasion, I would switch seats with my mom and be up front with him, just to talk. It was so cool because it was just he and I. What really made it special was that I could always tell that he was as happy as I was to have time together. God is just the same, but even more full of love for us. He wants to bless us with His healing touch, His affirming words and His kind attention.
[WORSHIP: THE ATTENTION GOD SEEKS FROM US]
The Westminster Catechism opens with this profound question: What is the chief end of man? The textbook answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.
Sounds like worship to me. If this is in fact the meaning of life, it seems that God must want us to return His attention with our own. He wants us to not just seek Him, but to find Him. He even promises us that He is within arms’ reach (Matthew 6:33). Worship is about showering God with our approval and affection, reflecting the favor He’s already shown us. Just as a father whose young daughter runs across the room to meet him after work shouting, “Daddy! Daddy!” God eagerly anticipates our worship. Just as the parent who has sent a first child off to college waits by the phone, God desires our intimate communication; just a short call once in a while in return for so many years of loving attention.[Graham Plaster is anensign aboard the USS Reuben James in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In his spare time, he enjoys playing keyboard with the worship team at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Honolulu and writing some of his own music.He and his wife Esther are expecting their first child in September.]
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