Paying Attention

What if the patriarchs had been thinking about where they came from? What if Abraham had been consumed with homesickness for Ur? What if Isaac had decided his father’s “old country” was a safer bet than this nomadic life of complete obedience that had nearly cost him his life? What if Jacob had hightailed it back to Bethel, that place of heavenly vision that had brought him so much comfort, when he had his first taste of Uncle Laban’s manipulation? The history of God’s chosen people would look quite different!

If they were thinking about where they came from, they would have had an opportunity to return. But they now desire a better place — a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Hebrews 11:15-16 CSB

And it wasn’t just that these men didn’t do these things. They didn’t even give these actions room in their thoughts. That’s because our thinking determines our doing, long before it’s ever done. “Thinking” alerts us, attunes us to the possibility of “doing” when the opportunity arises.

Our focus may seem like such a quiet, inner thing, as we retreat to that place deep inside and hold up our idols admiringly, without seeming to offend anybody else. But this thing called “paying attention”, this thoughtful mulling and dwelling is actually a mighty force that shapes the course of our lives and sometimes the course of history.

The Apostle Paul had one goal — to know Jesus and His resurrection power and to experience Christ’s intimate fellowship in all his sufferings. That was his goal, so that was where he fixed his thoughts. “But one thing I do,” he wrote, “forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead” (Phil 3:13).

I want to open the crisp, empty pages of a new calendar year with that same forward facing gaze. Not in an unhealthy way that dismisses or denies the past by refusing to deal with those demons, but in faith that Jesus has taken hold of me and dealt with them once and for all.

Could it be that the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” is not ashamed to be called my God? Is He the “God of Erin” too? I dare to believe that He is the God of anyone who sets their desire on Him above all else!

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