Pet me. Pay attention to me, my dog seems to be saying as he sits in front of me. His bottom is firmly planted on top of my computer's charging cord—a challenge to what has been and what should be taking priority in my life.
A line from my theology reading comes to mind: "God speaks through his creation."
Hasn't my dog been proving this point to me?
This summer, my dog has been holding me accountable to our prayer walks. Every morning, when I come down the stairs, he runs over and prances about, pushing me to hurry up and take him around the neighborhood. Since I've started these morning walks, I've been following them up with jogs (without the dog), and I'm beginning to greet neighbors during these morning excursions.
None of this would've started had I not received the inspiration to take my dog out on a morning walk and kept at it.
What could God be trying to tell me now? What has He been trying to tell me over the hundreds (thousands?) of times my dog has sat before me, trying to command my attention, over the past twelve years?
Pet me. Pay attention to me. Put down your phone, your computer, your technology, any and all distractions, and live this moment in life with me and me alone. Give me the whole of your attention. Lavish your love upon me.
My dog hates technology. I see it in his eyes when I try to talk to him while working on my computer. I believe that he sees all technology as a thief stealing away his family's attention. It's gotten worse over the years as my brother and I grew up and bought computers of our own. Now, the whole family can be in the same room but on a separate piece of technology. (This problem is a whole other post of its own.)
My dog is like a small child. He's utterly dependent on the family to take care of him, and he can easily get into trouble when we aren't paying attention. We've learned not to leave certain items out within his reach because, given the opportunity, he'll chew them up. He's also like a small child in that he demands attention. Bored, he'll ask to go outside (only to paw at the door to be let back in a minute later) or beg for food in the kitchen. Sometimes (oftentimes) he'll pad over to the couch and paw at my lap or put his head on top of my laptop asking for love.
I've learned to put down whatever I'm doing and shower my dog with affection. Satisfied that he's loved, he'll leave after a few minutes or lie down to rest by his loved ones.
If I can put down whatever I'm doing to spend 5-15 minutes with my dog on multiple separate occasions a day—if I would put down whatever I'm doing to reassure a small child that he (or she) is loved—can't I do the same for my Heavenly Father?
A question came up in the youth group surveys. One of the students wrote that he wants to spend time reading in his Bible every day, but he's very busy and doesn't always make the time.
Over a game of Uno (because good fellowship can and does happen over a competitive card game), the group discussed ways that we can make time for God.
Following are some of our answers:
- Spend less time playing video games and give that time back to God.
- Instead of staying up until 2 a.m. in the morning watching Netflix, read the Bible.
- Read the Bible before going out to spend time with friends and family.
- Give up homework time. (I think that was intended as a joke, but it opened a good opportunity to discuss our priorities and what should come first. While we shouldn't read our Bible just because we don't want to do our homework, we might read our Bible before starting our homework.)
- Wake up earlier to read the Bible. (I would wake up at 5:15 a.m. as a teacher, so I could spend quality time in my Bible and prayer before starting the rest of my day. Yes, there were many days that I resented my alarm, but the time spent with God was well worth the sacrifice.)
All of these examples involve sacrifices. We need to sacrifice some things we love to spend time listening to the one who loves us more (and who we know we should love more but don't always love in practice).
As Jesus said, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26).
Does this mean that I should utterly despise my family and cut off all ties with them? That I should hate my own life, which God has given me? No! But if I consider my family and life to be my most treasured earthly possessions, then Jesus is telling me that my love for him must be so great that my love for my family and self pales in comparison. To sacrifice video games, Netflix, and some homework time is nothing in comparison to the great gains to be made by spending quality time with my Heavenly Father.
The other day, the pastor's wife and I talked about the church bubble. We're good at speaking up about current issues but not so much at going out into the community and doing something about it. As a result, many church members don't fellowship beyond the walls of their church; they segregate their church life and home life, and their church learning has little impact on how they live their daily lives. (No wonder then that so many people are becoming disillusioned with the church! As the saying goes, our actions speak louder than our words.)
I can't go to church on Sundays and not live out Biblical truths the rest of the week. Likewise, I can't read my Bible every morning and not think about, or worship, God the rest of the day.
My day needs to be lived out in worship to Him.
Not because I believe it's my duty to think about God every other minute but because everything put together—my time at church on Sundays, fellowship (time spent) with other believers, my Bible readings, my prayers, my daily revelations surrounded by His creation—all these things and more lead me to experience gratitude. Gratitude leads to life lived in the full. To appreciation for His grace. To awe-struck wonder and joy.
How can I not lift my hands up in worship when I have cultivated a heart of gratitude?
How can I not bow my head down in prayer when I understand all He's done for me?
So then, how can I not set my alarm fifteen earlier to listen to Him speak through His Word?
If my dog feels sorrow when I pet him while looking at my phone screen, consider how much more God must sorrow when I let technology and other worldly enjoyments distract me from worshiping my Creator.
My challenge today is for us to consider the quality of the time we give back to God. Are we praising Him with our mouths while our eyes and ears are turned elsewhere? Or are we giving Him our undivided attention in pure, unadulterated worship?