Pay attention, my child, to what I say. Listen carefully. Don’t lose sight of my words. Let them penetrate deep within your heart, for they bring life andradiant health to anyone who discovers their meaning. - Proverbs 4:20-22
In his utopian novel “Island,” Aldous Huxley wrote, “You forget to pay attention to what’s happening. And that’s the same as not being here and now.” To pay attention, we need to be aware of and concentrating upon the data that are being supplied to us by our senses at any given moment. But it is possible for us to be in a situation which is so familiar that we can “switch off” the data and concentrate on something that is neither here nor now. For instance, driving a car is so familiar and so repetitive that it is possible for the driver on the way home to have no conscious recollection of the journey but to be deeply aware of the discussion with his passenger.
Our attention can also be distracted from the “here and now” experience because our pre-attentive processes have already determined that the data are weird, boring, or too familiar. Any insignificant event can appear more significant because it is unfamiliar or unusual. So when listening to a profound sermon on eternal issues, an inattentive listener will be easily distracted by a child crying—or a cell phone ringing! With all the possibilities for attention wandering, the need to give “wake up” signals is profoundly important. So imperatives such as “Look out!” or “Listen!” and instructions to pay attention need to be utilized regularly.
The writer of Proverbs certainly thought so. He wrote, “Pay attention, my child, to what I say. Listen carefully. Don’t lose sight of my words. Let them penetrate deep within your heart, for they bring life and radiant health to anyone who discovers their meaning” (Prov. 4:20-22).
Like the writer of Proverbs, God is a father who calls his people “my children” (4:1). God our father, in his gracious will, has brought us into existence and is deeply concerned about our well-being. We, being human, are prone, like children, to allow our attention to wander. We find matters of prime importance too familiar to warrant our concentrated awareness and issues of little import so fascinating that they dominate our thinking and captivate our desires.
It takes a disciplined mind to concentrate on what God is saying in his Word, and to allow the truth of the Word to find a deep resting place in the affections, desires, and aspirations of the human spirit. Failure to pay attention may mean you miss the point. That could mean you miss your way. Listening is of prime importance.
For Further Study: Proverbs 4:1-22